Puppy Dog Tales - April 2015
Read Me a Story
by seizure alert dog Daisy Mae Delray
This month - Daisy Mae takes part in a reading program at the Boys and Girls Club.
Bobbi and Bob Cat are real and this is their story. It was August 29th, 2005 and Hurricane Katrina was slamming the Coast, flooding homes, taking away dreams and lives changing the coast forever. Bobbi, a brown hound mix dog with no tail was tied to the porch of the house where she lived and a white tabby named Bob Cat who also had a bobtail was by her side.
The wind and the rains came and there was no rescue in sight. Bobbi and Bob Cat had eaten all their food and drunk all the water that was left. After days Bobbi finally broke her chain and went in search of family, food and water. No luck. They were on the street for four months until they were rescued and taken to the Best Friends Animal Society shelter that has been set up in Celebration Station. That’s all of the story you get. To find out what happens you will have to get the book and ask your children to read it to you.
I am fortunate as I get to be read to on a frequent basis. I am part of the Friends of the Animal Shelter Reading with Friends program. There are two sides to reading with Friends. One is to help children gain confidence in their reading and the other is to educate them about pet companions and how to take good care of them.
Micky Evans, founder of Friends and her beloved Catahoula, Isobel, went to schools and anywhere there were children to teach them how to be good stewards to their pets. One day while she was in her store (before the storm) a woman and her son came by and the boy recognized Micky and Isobel from a presentation she had given. When Micky asked him what he had learned he said, “spay and neuta your pets”. Kids are like sponges and they absorb as much as we can give them.
We started out reading at the library and then last year started at the Boys and Girls Club here in Hancock County as a joint project with the Hancock County Library. Club Director, Shannel Smith (Cleaver Good Neighbor, February 2015) was eager to help the students improve their reading skills and the parents were presented the idea at a parents meeting and like the idea. So what we do on the first and third Wednesdays is show up with dogs and we get read to. We educate a little but the real focus is to increase reading skills. It is so much fun for me to have the kids remember who I am and to be so eager to read to me.
Right now we have me and my brother Robbie and our beagle friend Rosie. We are adding another therapy dog for next time so that means we can read with 12 children at a time – 3 for each dog. The kids select a book and take turns reading aloud. If one stumbles on a word the others help out. What excites me the most is the improvement we see every time we come.
Natalie Beam is the Youth Services Director for the library and she and Nel Ducomb, Community Outreach Director join us. They pick the books for the kids to read at the right age level so it is not too easy and not too hard. Natalie told me that an important part of reading to a dog is that affirmation we give them. We don’t correct their pronunciation or step in and read a line. The average pooch has a vocabulary of about 165 words so we understand more than you would expect and we turn our heads, prick our ears and gaze adoringly at the person reading out loud.
Start early with your children and have them read to you, their siblings and any pets in the home. If they don’t know the words – the picture can tell the story. Soon they will be getting books out and demanding that you listen to them read. Natalie pointed out one interesting point. When the kids come to read, they recognize us and we recognize them.
“They are getting affirmation,” Natalie told me. She said that they feel that “I am doing a good job – this dog is sitting next to me and listening." “When they start school and they don’t have a good foundation," Natalie said, “Studies show the kids cannot catch up.” Something that seems so simple as reading out loud is really quite profound.
So that is the program and what do I want you to do? Have your children read to you and their pets. You will find that time you spend together is calming, rewarding and so much fun. As an aside, if you don’t have children then you can read to your pets. We understand more than you think we do and we love to hear the sound of your voice. My person yaks at us all the time and we have awesome vocabularies. You can also read more about the benefits of reading programs by looking at the website, www.Librarydogs.com. There is an adorable Today Show presentation on their site about reading to dogs.
Finally, consider having your pet trained as a therapy animal. In the Sun Herald there is a notice that the Pass Christian Library is continuing their sponsorship for the Sit, Stay, R.E.A.D Visiting Pet Teams of South Mississippi Children’s Reading Program. A friend of mine, Eleanor Rose Hunter runs an organization called Angels on Paws out of Slidell, LA. Her group is an affiliate of Intermountain Therapy Animals R.E.A.D. program. Eleanor is working to set up a R.E.A.D, program at the Diamondhead library. If you are interested in more information about R.E.A.D. their website is www.therapyanimals.org.
Send my person an email for more information on the Friends of the Animal Shelter Reading with Friends or to get involved. She is at email@example.com or 228.222.7018
Keep your tail high and your feet dry – love Daisy Mae
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