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A boy reads to Mary Traynor and Guinevere

The kids really read to those dogs

Kids and dogs have been coming together all summer at the Guntersville Public Library on Tuesdays for “Dog Tales,” a special time when youngsters get to read to pooches who are part of the Therapy Dogs program. Yes, the kids really read to the dogs and, yes, the dogs really seem to listen. Both kids and dogs seem to enjoy it. There were 14 kids and 6 dogs at the last session of “Dog Tales” recently. The dogs range from pure breds to rescues. John McClendon was there with “Mr. Sugar,” a Sheltie. Barbara Rowland had “Minnie,” a Chihuahua. Arnie Swanson was with “Paisy,” a Lab mix.

“She’s a rescue,” Mr. Swanson said. “My vet gave her to me.” Rosalind Hall had “Rush,” an Australian shepherd. Mrs. Hall has been working with Therapy Dogs since 1981 and has had a number of animals go through the program. Big white dogs “Guinevere” and “Cheyenne” rounded out the mix. The dogs and their handlers have seen some small victories in the program. A couple of autistic children who were terrified of dogs at the beginning of the summer have warmed up to them now. The rules call for a child to ask a handler, “May I pet your dog?” before touching an animal. Each child politely followed that standard. To keep the dogs from being overwhelmed with kids, part of the kids do an activity led by librarians while part visit with the animals. Then they swap up.

It could be very relaxing for the animals. Paisy went to sleep while a brother gently stroked her ears as his sister read to him. The Therapy Dogs all had one thing in common, a calm demeanor. The summer reading program may be ending, but the dogs and their handlers are gearing up for more activity. Most visit nursing homes on a regular basis and some also go to preschools.




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