My dog Mouse and I are a registered therapy dog team. We just got registered through Delta Society a couple months ago…and then we completed the requirements to work with Intermountain Therapy Animals Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.). So far we’re just doing this at the local library. We’ve gone twice now and I’ve learned a lot (probably more than I learned in my training).
I forgot my badges the first week…I have a Delta badge (which I am required to wear whenever my dog and I are out “working” in public) and a R.E.A.D. badge. I also forgot hand sanitizer (that’s another requirement…I’m supposed to carry hand sanitizer). But I remembered everything else.
The program is brand new at my local library, so we didn’t have a pillow for my dog (we used carpet squares)…and because Mouse is newly registered, he didn’t have a vest yet. But aside from those things, ALMOST everything else went very well that first week. We had kids right away! We filled up all the slots. It was a lot of fun. Now that my own kids are too old to read to, this activity fills a void for me. I love reading with kids…I love walking into the library with my dog and seeing the pleasure on people’s faces…and I’m so very proud of my dog! I knew he’d be a good therapy dog because he loves everyone…there’s nothing he’d rather do than make a new friend. But I wasn’t entirely sure he’d be up for the R.E.A.D. program…not at his age (he’s only a year and a half old). But he’s doing GREAT! He curls up in his spot and he stays lying down the whole time a child is reading to him. Some kids he snuggles up to…some he puts his head on their knees…and today he put his paw on the book and looked at the pictures!
We had one other problem our first week…a parent dropped off her two kids to read. They were five and six years old. And when I finished with the one child, I went out to tell the parent what a good job her child did…only the parent I started talking to WASN’T THE CHILD’S parent. This parent pointed out the window and said “that’s the mom over there.” Yes, Mom was taking the baby home…and expected the five and six year old to cross Fifth Street in Coralville (which has a fair amount of traffic!) and walk three blocks home. Alone. According to the kids, they do this “all the time.” I was stunned! The person who was serving as our “greeter” for the program ended up walking the kids home, but that introduces a whole new set of problems with liability. So I guess from now on we turn such situations over to the library. Live and learn…
Today was a new adventure. I discovered my dog was not as excited about his official vest as I was!
I put it on him right before it was time to leave and…he just stood there. He did not move. When an 88-pound dog decides not to move, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. I should’ve had him wear the vest a little bit this weekend to get used to it before I put it on him for real. Again, live and learn…
We did eventually get out the door, though…and when we arrived at the library (with my badges and hand sanitizer this time!) we discovered the dog pillows had come in! Yay!!!!
Things went even better this time…we had kids who had read with Mouse two weeks ago and wanted to read with him again, so that was fun! I love that we’re getting repeat customers.
One of the kids today had a book that was set in a very strange font for an easy reader. The capital I and the lower case l looked exactly the same!!! Why would a publisher do that…especially on a book that a beginning reader is going to attempt to read by himself??? The poor kid had a hard time sounding out some of these words…she’d try an “I” sound when she should’ve been trying an “L” sound and vice versa. It made me feel very frustrated with the publisher.
But everything else went very well today (once Mouse got used to his vest). No parents left their five and six-year-olds alone with us…I remembered everything I was supposed to bring…so I’d say things went better today than they went the first time. I’m looking forward to week #3!