As a certified therapy dog team, Erin and myself had the privilege of being involved in various events with the youth of Savannah and it was always special as young minds were positively impacted. The Islands Library Dog Days Program was designed to enhance the reading skills of children with the belief, reluctant kids are more comfortable reading to a sweet dog than their demanding parents. Many Wednesday afternoons were spent driving towards the library while a recently groomed Erin let the rushing wind pelt her smiling face in the backseat. Upon arrival at our destination, it was time to sniff the outdoors perimeter for hints of fellow canines and intruding felines while taking care of nature’s business.
Entering the library before the scheduled session allowed Erin to greet and say “hello” to the many patrons at the computer stations, browsing the shelves, or idly wasting time. If the onlookers showed a keen interest in dogs, I’d lead her in their direction for a meet and greet where they always wanted to know “how come your dog can come inside?” After this meeting of the public, we made our way to a carpeted room designated for the program where I staked out the area we would occupy for the next hour plus. Erin’s favorite doggie blanket was unfurled and that’s where I plopped down while my faithful friend sprawled out next to me. Several fellow therapy dogs always joined in on the fun and together we waited for the youngsters and their parents to arrive.
While parents sat in chairs against the walls, the aspiring readers strolled over to a long folding table where books selected specifically for the program were standing upright. Some bashfully grabbed the nearest title while others contemplated their choices until an exasperated guardian implored them to make up their mind in this lifetime. Meanwhile Erin sat impatiently beside me on the blanket knowing the kids were coming our way soon. With book in hand, the children then chose a dog who they wished to read to and it all came down to personal preference based upon cuteness, size, color, furriness, gender, etc. One at a time, the students ranging in age from five to early teens sat upon the blanket for introductions and then attempted to recite the written words to Erin at their own leisure
The oldest easily read their picture book while beginning readers struggled with every word and that’s when Erin and I guided them to success. Of course, for most youngsters this was an excuse to lie near, stroke the fur, or pay attention to a furry beast and she was never one to refuse a scratch upon the head, a hug around the neck, or having those droopy ears massaged. While they read, many held a freckled paw, or rested her head upon their laps while hilariously, some said “Erin pay attention” or “Your dog isn’t following the story”. I’d assure them that she’s paying attention and loves this story, please continue. All children who read to Erin received a bookmark of their favorite color and they absolutely loved them, it was a big deal to collect them all.
Those children who struggled with reading at school or home due to expectations become comfortable around Erin as they realized she’s not judgmental nor will she utter a disparaging remark, all she will do is be a friend and patiently listen. For one hour a week, those that desired to improve their skills at reading lined up to tell Erin a tale. It was a special time as progress was made, parents made positive comments, and enthusiasm grew. To her, these gatherings were about extra loving but to everyone else, she was performing a valuable service to the child, family, and community. Hopefully, her impact will continue to be felt for years to come. I’m very proud of the sway my fur angel made in the lifes of many children, she did very well!!!