Furry reading friends

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, September 17, 2009

The pitter patter of little feet was heard in the children’s section of the North Shelby Library Monday, Sept. 14.

School had let out, but these weren’t children’s feet coming in the door. Three well-behaved dogs and their handlers from Hand-in-Paw spread blankets on the carpet, sat down and waited for readers.

A large basket on the floor held stacks of books. This “Sit, Stay, and Read” event happens every Monday at North Shelby Library.

Hand-in-Paw is an internationally known non-profit organization that provides professionally trained handler and animal teams to promote human health and well–being through animal assisted therapy.

Hand-in-Paw is recognized for its innovative programs focused on physical and emotional challenges, disabilities, age related issues and illiteracy. More than half of therapy animals come from rescue shelters, demonstrating how these abandoned creatures can find purpose through helping others.

Hand-in-Paw team interactions can promote the following for their clients or patients:

uReduced stress and depression

uIncreased self-esteem

uIncreased empathy

uGained trust

The “Sit, Stay and Read” program helps shy children who may be reading below grade level to gain confidence and overcome reluctance or embarrassment.

Skills improve when reading to a non-judgmental therapy animal. Children are more motivated when reading to a gentle furry friend with a lolling tongue and big brown eyes.

Children should register for a time between 3:15-4:15 p.m. on Mondays. If they show up and hope to be squeezed into a time slot, they could be disappointed.

Call 439-5504 or e–mail NorthShelbyYouth@gmail.com for registration.

While waiting for Monday’s reader to arrive, 19-month-old Karson Hannah sidled up with his mother in tow.

A precious brown and white dog named Mia greeted him with a smile. She really did. Little Karson reached for the dog, saying, “Woof, woof.”

Hand-in-Paw serves a six county area, and works through donations and sponsors. All of its 100 therapy teams are volunteers. If you wish more information, visit Handinpaw.org or call 322-5144.

Gladys Hodge Sherrer can be reached by e–mail at