Today I am pleased to welcome guest blogger, SandDancer’s The Kiss O’Grace…
I am a therapy dog. People call me Gracie or Grace or Gracie the Reading Dog or Sweet Pea. When the weather starts getting warm it’s time for my annual physical and shots, then I make a trip to visit Saint Kathy, my groomer, for my “summer do.” It’s time to start my summer job!
I have a summer job in a small library in Ocean Park, Maine. I take on my identity of “Gracie the Reading Dog.” My Mom and I got the idea 5 years ago to start a new reading program at the Library (where she was working for the summer). Ocean Park is a Chautauqua (more about that in a future blog) on the ocean in southern Maine. Lots of people come here for a beach vacation. Mom was a teacher and a school administrator. She says “once a teacher, always a teacher.”
Mom thinks kids should read books over the summer so that they don’t lose important skills they have developed in school. She also says it should be fun reading, not something that feels like a punishment. Mom says it is especially important for struggling readers to be encouraged, gently guided and rewarded for their efforts. It is also important that they feel safe when they are reading and learning to read. That will affect their definition of themselves as readers. That’s where I come in…
As a therapy dog I went to school to learn how to use what I do best (relate to people) while harnessing my exuberant enthusiasm for life and putting it to good use. I have visited nursing homes, worked with Mom when she worked with developmentally disabled adults, I have visited people with brain injuries in a rehab center and then I became a reading dog. I do have to say, I am one awesome therapy dog!! Being an attentive golden retriever I love listening to a good
tail tale. I even have a library of my own full of books about dogs, and 2 books about psycho kitties (have to keep up the belief that canines are the dominant breed).
Some boys and girls read really well. They will even read me a chapter from a chapter book! The problem with that is I never get to hear the end of the story. Some boys and girls have to work hard when they read. It is not easy for them. Many of them are shy and start out their stories with a soft little voice I can hardly hear. Then, by the time they finish the story they are reading loud and really excited about the story! They always make me feel good because I know they trust me. I give them extra special hugs and kisses with their Tails to Read© bookmark. Those boys and girls often have mean kids at school who laugh or make rude noises when they are slow at reading or make a mistake. Sometimes their adults expect too much or are embarrassed because they are not quick readers. I have as much time as they need and special ways to show I enjoy their company, accept them as they are and love their stories..
Sometimes a boy or girl is a good reader, but has a hard time with people. Sometimes they are so afraid of people that they hardly ever talk. I help them also. It’s not scary reading to someone with reddish fur, big brown eyes, a big smile and a giant heart that loves everyone. No one knows how smart they are when they are afraid to talk to people. It makes their mothers cry when they hear them read to me.
Sometimes I get really little boys and girls to “read” to me. Their parents want them to be comfortable around dogs and really don’t know how to read yet. I help them learn how to approach a dog, how to be gentle and treat them with respect. In return, they bring picture books and create a story to go with it. Those are great stories told with gusto!!
My Mom’s favorite question when a woman brought her son to read to me was to ask if I understood books read in French. They were from Quebec and French is their first language. My Mom stood up straight and proudly announced that I was a multi-lingual dog when it came to stories, that I understood
tails tales told in all languages! I am one smart golden, if I do say so myself!
Being a reading dog, and therapy dog is very important work. I help kids feel confident about their reading and about reading books. I help them enjoy their vacation even though their dogs weren’t able to come on vacation with them. I help them know that dogs can be their friends and be good listeners. I offer two good ears, soft fur, kisses and let them know that each of them are unique and special. Mom always tells me in the car on the way home that I make a lot of kids and adults very happy. I’m glad I am a therapy dog. The people let me know that I have a special job and a special gift to give to others. That makes me one happy, but tired, puppy!!!