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Ohio’s therapy dogs go by the book

Companions provide impartial audience to young readers

AKRON — Therapy dogs are often used to visit children in the hospital or seniors in nursing homes.

But on a recent Sunday, several therapy dogs were happy to sit still and listen to a good book read by a little companion.

Every other Sunday for about seven years, dogs have been visiting the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library for an hour in the children’s story time room.

“Look! Look at the octopus!” 3-year-old Aidan Barker of Stow prompted his reading companion.

Bucca, an 8-year old Cavalier King Charles spaniel, lifted her head and sniffed at the octopus on the page before putting her head down again while her owner, Trish Miller of Tallmadge, rubbed her belly.

As Aidan showed Bucca pictures in his book, Cowboy Octopus, Bucca at times seemed most interested in licking Aidan’s ear.

A few feet away, Emily and Sarah Kos, 7 and 4 years old, were reading books to Mindy, an 8-year-old golden retriever.

“We don’t have a dog, so this fills that requirement of theirs,” their mom, Bernadette Kos of Stow, said of the reading opportunity.

When the girls had heard that they were coming to the library to read to a dog, they had hoped for a golden retriever, Ms. Kos said.

Stow’s program helps children build confidence in their reading ability with an impartial audience, said Kristin Casale, a children’s librarian.

The Stow program brings in dogs every other Sunday afternoon. Other libraries also have similar programs, including Tallmadge, Cuyahoga Falls, and Hudson, she said.

At the Stow library, there’s about seven dogs that rotate and come for story time. On one Sunday, four dogs were waiting for some little reading buddies.

Ms. Casale said there’s no advance sign-up for the 15-minute slots and it’s on a first-come, first-served basis. Some children have their favorite dog to read to and the dogs aren’t always available.

“One dog was out of commission because it was investigating an intense crime,” she said.

During the summers, the Stow library increases its frequency of the dog story time visits to weekly on Fridays, but for now, it’s every other Sunday for one hour, Ms. Casale said.

“We had one child who would come faithfully with her grandfather, and she was a good reader. She stopped coming when she finally got her own dog,” Ms. Miller said.

Another family had two girls, one of whom was afraid of dogs because she had been hurt by one.

At first, she was afraid of Bucca, who is a black dog, the same color as the dog who hurt her, but eventually the girl got over her fear through the visits, Ms. Miller said.

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