Children’s Choice Book Award-winning author Lisa Papp and her beloved character Madeline Finn return this September in Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog – a story about a young girl, her dog Star, and Star’s challenging journey to becoming a Therapy dog. But it’s also a celebration of all therapy dogs who work in our libraries, bookstores, rehabilitation centers, private homes, and more!
Throughout the pre-publication phase of this book, we’ve discovered the awe-inspiring world of therapy dogs. It’s been a humbling and heart-warming experience. There’s so much we didn’t know! Today, we’re excited to share some of the stories we’ve heard from people working hand-in-paw with Therapy dogs, and from those who have received their care. You might want to grab a tissue.
Did You Know that Therapy Dogs Teach Kids and Adults to Get Comfortable with Dogs?
This is Pearl, a licensed therapy dog who visited our library for several years. She was a wonderful friend to children who loved to read with her, lie on her, and cuddle her. However, she provided much more than just a listening ear. She and her handler (or “mom”) Frosti gently taught children how to safely approach dogs, they soothed the fears of children and adults who were afraid of dogs, and were beloved by members of several group homes. They were thrilled anew every time they met Pearl. The child who got to hold Pearl’s leash on the walk out always knew it was a special treat!
After Pearl retired, we partnered with the local animal shelter, Lakeland Animal Shelter, to allow children to meet animals in a safe and controlled environment, as well as to provide socialization for the animals themselves. I learned a great deal from Pearl and Frosti, including just how important the human part of the equation is, and we were lucky enough to have great volunteers who could help nervous children and animals come together.
We love the Madeline Finn books at our library, not just because they remind us of our dear friend Pearl, but also because they offer such a great example of interactions between humans and animals and how they can work together to bring happiness to so many.
Youth Services Librarian
Matheson Memorial Library
Did You Know that Therapy Dogs Help Timid and Reluctant Readers Gain Confidence?
By partnering with Midnight Sun Service Dogs, Anchorage Public Library invites children who are struggling and striving readers to read to service and therapy dogs. We like to think that the dogs get as much out of it as the kids!
Children choose from a selection of easy-to-read books (many times about dogs and cats), go into a quiet room, and sit next to a patient, listening dog. Two of our favorite therapy dogs are Pagan and Swivel Shot. These beautiful dogs sit or lie serenely next to their handlers, and children often even lie on top of the dogs as they read with growing confidence. We love our dog partners at the library!
We’ve seen so many children benefit from these dogs who don’t judge or correct the readers. They are friendly ears and comfortable friends. Many children are quite shy at first, not sure if they can trust our dogs. But time and again, the dog eventually wins the child over.
One second-grader affected by a brain injury was very timid at first. She was afraid to sit next to Pagan, so her handler had to sit between them. She read hesitantly and quietly, and Pagan’s handler had to lean in to hear her reading. Month by month, this young girl slowly began to not only gain confidence in her reading, but also was able to sit next to Pagan and actually snuggle up next to her.
Service and therapy dogs are brilliant at being patient and gentle, with the added bonus of being especially good at listening. Children are often inspired to go home and read to their own pets or stuffed animals. What a wonderful way to foster a love of reading!
Youth Services Librarian
Anchorage Public Library
Did You Know that Therapy Dogs Train Hard and Are as Diverse as Those They Help?
Border Collies are herding dogs that love to work, directing sheep or other groups of animals with a human handler. But Marlee was born deaf, so she couldn’t hear the calls and whistles of the handler. When she was twelve weeks old she was given to a young boy who liked to hunt, but Marlee couldn’t hear to come when she was called and could easily get lost in the woods. So she came to live with me.
I had worked at a school for children who are deaf and thought it would be wonderful if Marlee could one day be a therapy dog for deaf children who spoke the same language she did. We started training, but Marlee found it very hard to stay when I walked away. We found new trainers, Karen and Niki, who worked hard to help us learn and understand commands through hand signals and leash training. We now work together at Parnassus Books where Marlee is a favorite participant at story time and as a reading buddy. She also loves to jump through hoops.
A relationship that really stands out to me during Marlee’s time as a reading buddy is her friendship with Harper. Very early on in Marlee’s training, Harper offered to sit with her during story time. They have developed a wonderful relationship! Harper is great about telling the other kids that Marlee can’t hear and helping them get to know her. Marlee sits with Harper—usually with her head in Harper’s lap!
I loved the story of Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog. It represents so well the teamwork that goes into training, and I loved that Madeline was able to be so involved in the training and handling alongside her mom. I hope more kids have the opportunity to be involved in all phases of dog training and handling – and benefit from reading to therapy dogs too!
Special Sales and Office Manager
Did You Know that Therapy Dogs Help with Rehabilitation and Elder Care?
When my dad turned 90, my sister arranged for a therapy dog to visit him. Handlers and therapy dogs don’t make a habit of going to people’s houses, but in this case the man who read the email made an exception. He showed up in the midst of a pretty intense period of depression for Dad, and I hadn’t seen him smile like that for quite a while.
Dave, the handler, stayed in touch with us, and when Dad fell and went to a rehab center, Dave added it to his stops. To do that, he had to apply to this particular rehab center, show paperwork that he gets when his dog is qualified for Therapy, and then fit it into his schedule. While he was there, he made others stops to see anyone else who wanted a visit. To this day, Dave shows up at the rehab center every week.
Dad eventually returned home, and I stayed in touch with Dave. And when dad went to live in a memory care facility, I reached out to Dave to let him know. He immediately went through the paperwork to get qualified to visit there. And he did, weekly, visiting anyone who wanted to see a dog. When Dad died, I reached out to Dave. He showed up at the funeral with his therapy dog for all of us to hug. That day, he told me that meeting my dad was meant to be. He came into Dad’s life on Dad’s birthday, and my dad left his life on Dave’s birthday. Dave still visits both the rehab center and the memory care place.
Peachtree Publishing Company