Waggers and readers make a winning pair

John Blaize Suarez improves his reading with Bree, a therapy dog, at the South Asheville Library. Photo by Mukti Broner

Usually when dogs lie down flat, their ears also flop down — but not Bree, a certified therapy dog. Her ears stand up straight, pivoting toward children’s voices as they read at the Waggers and Readers program at the South Asheville-Oakley Public Library. On Feb. 14, Bree, a 10-year-old German Shepherd, was on the job with her handler Joann Rechtine .

Dogs paired with kids reading aloud may seem an unlikely match, but programs involving therapy dogs and reading have been around since 1999. Cheryl Middleton, branch manager and librarian at Oakley Library, decided to start the program last October because of  studies showing that when kids read aloud to a dog, it can boost their confidence, help with reading skills and relieve nervousness.

The challenge was finding a dog-and-handler team. “It just so happened that we were discussing starting a program like this at the same time Joann was moving to town and contacting our director,” says Middleton.  “It just came together perfectly.”

Middleton says the program, although still getting off the ground, is already popular. “The first couple of months every slot has been full,” says Middleton, except on bad weather days.  Will other branches also host dog reading?  Middleton says there is interest, and the library is looking for another therapy dog team.

To help support the development of more dog therapy teams in Asheville, Rechtine is co-teaching a six-week class to help local owners and their dogs learn more about becoming therapy dog teams.

Bree and Rechtine are at the library once a month on Wednesdays for an hour.  The 15-20 minute slots must be reserved ahead of time by calling the library, Middleton says.

“It’s just one of the nicest things I’ve ever done,” says Rechtine about the work she and Breen have done with kids in  dog reading programs.

Upcoming Waggers and Readers dog reading days:

March 11, 3 p.m.
April 8, 3 p.m.
May 13,  3 p.m.


Cheryl Middleton, South Asheville Library, 249 Fairview Rd., 828-250-4754
Oakley/South Asheville Libraryfacebook.com/pages/OakleySouth-Asheville-Library/678326592260964
Joann Rechtine and Breejrechtine@gmail.com
Therapy dog classagooddogslife.com




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About Nicki Glasser
Nicki is a freelance writer, healing facilitator for people and animals, animal communicator, songwriter, and currently at work on a memoir entitled Until I Rise Again. http://untiliriseagain.com/

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