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Embrace Change (and a Dog!) at the Library

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April contains National Library Week (April 14-20, 2013). According to the American Library Association website, this event was “first sponsored in 1958… to celebrate the contributions of our nation's libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support."

Poodle., Digital ID 1520383, New York Public LibraryWhile many of the services and features of our nation’s libraries have remained the same over the ensuing fifty-five years since the inception of National Library Week, a literal myriad of changes have been effectuated in libraries commensurate with the changes in the world. One change in particular causes people to (correctly) exclaim, "The library is going to the dogs!"

Dogs and other service animals have provided a wealth of services to people through the millennia, ranging from herding duties to assisting individuals deprived of the gift of sight to navigate in the world. Now, dogs are displaying yet another example of their seemingly limitless capacity to help mankind by serving as reading therapy dogs. Many library systems, including but not limited to the New York Public Library (herein "NYPL"), utilize reading therapy dogs to assist children who might enjoy and/or benefit from the service a reading dog provides.

The St. George Branch on Staten Island, for example, has scheduled the event "Read with Beverly the Therapy Dog" to occur on Saturday, April 20 and 27, 2013 at 11 a.m. Please find below a link to the web page containing listings of other NYPL branches that are also scheduled to host reading therapy dog visits. Dogs, unlike many classmates, do not snicker when a child stutters or otherwise stumbles over the pronunciation of a word. The nonjudgmental engagement that a trained reading therapy dog affords to a struggling reader is of potential enormous benefit. The Therapy Dogs International website extols the "...building of self-esteem..." that a child experiences as a direct result of reading to a therapy dog. Not every dog, however, necessarily qualifies as a "reading therapy dog." As is veracious with other service dogs, not every dog is possessed of the temperament, natural inclination or physical ability to serve as a reading therapy dog. (My own recently deceased and sorely missed dog, Curtis, was as visually challenged as his owner, so our walks together were often redolent of a "Mr. Magoo" movie! Insofar as I am aware, there are no books in Braille for dogs! Additionally, if I ever demonstrated the temerity to awaken Curtis from one of his naps to read to him, he would have opened one eye, cast a baleful glance in my direction to convey exactly what he thought of such an idea, and gone promptly back to dreaming about dog biscuits!)

The website Reading Education Assistance Dog contains information that stresses the importance of utilizing preferably certified therapy dogs as reading therapy dogs in order to ensure that the selected dog will consistently display the characteristics essential to this type of program (i.e., remaining tranquil when interacting with a child who might have a fear of dogs). The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine of Tufts University website also provides information concerning the benefits yielded to children by reading to a trained therapy dog(s) as well as the training and certtification of said dogs conducted by the Delta Society Pet Partners Program. The books selected to be read to the reading therapy dog are not of as much importance as the augmenting of a child's confidence by reading to a therapy dog. The NYPL contains a literal plethora of material, available in both traditional physical book format as well as e-books on the topic of therapy dogs. Also please find enumerated below a compilation of items contained in the NYPL's circulating collection concerning grief generated by the loss of a pet. Additionally, further websites replete with information concerning pet therapy dogs and pet bereavement are enumerated below.

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