Meet Tucker – A furry volunteer and therapy dog at the Glendale Library “Paws to Read” program. The “Paws to Read” program improves children’s reading skills and boosts confidence by pairing practicing readers with a trained therapy dog. Children read to dogs in a positive, non-threatening, fun environment.
Tucker, a yellow Labrador retriever, has a teddy-bear temperament his activities to date include visits to a nursing home, Brooke’s Place (for grieving children), and several libraries for Paws to Read.
A dog who works?
Don’t dogs just eat, sleep and fetch? Although that is the dog’s life most people picture, there are some dogs that really do like to work… like service dogs. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990), a dog is considered a "service dog" if it has been "individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. There are a number of different skill levels of service dogs, e.g. facility dogs and skilled companions, with varying levels of public access protected by the ADA.
But what about opportunities for dogs who are just great family pets, whose owners would like to share them with others in need? The answer is Animal Assisted Activity (AAA) and Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), commonly referred to as Pet Therapy. There are national organizations that provide testing and certification (e.g., Delta Society’s Pet Partner Program, Therapy Dog International, etc) and Paws and Think is a local organization that can provide classes, evaluation and support, and alliances with local organizations seeking animal therapy teams. Paws and Think serves at-risk youths, at-risk canines, and children and adults with disabilities/special needs in central Indiana (Marion and surrounding counties). Here are a few examples of where pet therapy can be beneficial:
- Children who are grieving the loss of someone special
- Children who need a non-judgmental listener as they read so they can improve their reading skills (literacy)
- Children in schools who need to know how to prevent dog bites or care for pets responsibly
- Children in hospitals who feel afraid and displaced
- Seniors who enjoy the physical affection and social interaction of pets; adults and children in physical or speech rehabilitation; and
- Soldiers with physical and emotional traumas who have served their country.
Our own local Glendale Library has embraced the AAA/AAT dog concept by participating in a program called “Paws to Read”. The Paws to Read program improves children’s reading skills and boosts confidence by pairing practicing readers with a trained therapy dog. Children read to dogs in a positive, non-threatening, fun environment. The dogs listen and don’t tease, laugh, or judge the child.
The Paws to Read dogs have been trained and tested for health, safety, and temperament. They work as a team with their trained handler who facilitates a relaxed and fun reading experience. Learning of any kind occurs best when children feel comfortable and assured. Reading to a dog makes reading fun and children look forward to spending time with the Paws to Read dogs. Reading to a dog can help your child:
- Increase his/her reading skills
- Develop communication skills
- Gain confidence
- Raise his/her self-esteem
- Build Social Skills
- Improve school performance
ALONG CAME TUCKER
In March 2008, I adopted Tucker, a yellow Labrador retriever, at the young rambunctious age of 8 weeks. At the time I was unaware of the therapy dog program/evaluation. But having discovered Tucker’s teddy-bear temperament, completing a series of obedience classes, then passing the Canine Good Citizen test, I explored the programs. In the summer of 2009 Tucker was evaluated through Paws and Think and TDI. His activities to date include visits to a nursing home, Brooke’s Place (for grieving children), and several libraries for Paws to Read. When Tucker is not playing with his big red Jolly Ball, or begging our neighbors (the Ogden family) for cheese, you can find him “reading” at Glendale library on Tuesday evenings, 5:30-6:30 (every other month, rotating with Wrigley – a wonderful golden doodle). For more information on the Glendale Paws to Read program, visit the library and pick up their informative brochure.
Nancy Poppleton says: I’m very glad we set up this partnership; Geri and Tucker have been a joy to work with! I hope we can continue our Paws to Read program (at Glendale Library) and the good benefits it brings.