Therapy dogs visit East Regional Library to help new readers

mhankerson@newsobserver.comMay 9, 2014 

— A group of therapy dogs that visits schools and libraries in Wake County made its monthly stop in eastern Wake County last week, allowing children to practice their reading skills.

“(The good thing about reading programs with therapy dogs) is that dogs don’t judge,” said handler Nancy Barringer. She and her Golden Retriever, Jake, participate in See Spot Read, the program that gives children an opportunity to read to therapy dogs.

Jake was originally trained to be a guide dog, but had to retire from that job because of some hip problems. Now he likes to nap while children read to him, Barringer said.

The dogs participating in See Spot Read are not part of an organized group. They are individually owned and trained therapy dogs who choose to volunteer in the event at county libraries.

“I think this is just a great way to encourage kids,” said Katie Patterson, who brought Lucy, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. “It’s to help (kids) learn to love to read.”

Therapy dogs, unlike service dogs, are not trained for one person’s needs. Instead, they are certified to visit groups of people to provide stress relief, or in the case of dogs participating in See Spot Read, a low-pressure environment to practice a skill.

Patterson and Lucy also visit local nursing homes, where Lucy can walk room-to-room to visit with seniors.

Brandon Raymond, 6, read a chapter book to the dogs, reserving one chapter per dog. With the help of his mom and the patience of a 5-year-old German Shepherd Lorelei, he sounded out some of the more difficult words in his book.

Lorelei’s handler, Trish Raffel, also encouraged 7-year-old Madison Sargent to mimic some of the noises of the animals in the book she read to the dog to keep Lorelei listening closely.

Therapy dogs can visit places like nursing homes, schools and recently, therapy dogs visiting college campuses during the end of semesters has become a popular trend.

Lorelei and Raffel spent the early part of May visiting Peace College, Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill participating in similar programs.

See Spot Read is the first Tuesday of the month at East Regional Library from 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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