Whenever I talk about my dog, Baby, being involved in a reading program with elementary school children, I quickly have to explain that, “No, Baby isn’t trained to read, the kids read to her!”
Baby is in her first year on the Pit Crew working as a therapy dog and — without question — her favorite activity is visiting schools where she is surrounded by children. She howls with anticipation and prances excitedly when we approach the building and she soaks up every bit of attention she gets from the kids and faculty.
This past year we’ve been frequent visitors to the after school reading program at Pecan Springs Elementary School, where the kids and teachers have come to recognize Baby and the other Pit Crew dogs as welcome friends.
Thanks to the Andy Roddick Foundation’s wonderful Summer Learning Program, Baby and the other Pit Crew dogs were invited to come read with the kids each afternoon during the program this summer.
The kids read to Baby at the Andy Roddick Summer Camp.
The visits go something like this: We arrive just after lunch time, when the kids are settling into classrooms to read. Each dog is assigned to a classroom. The children get to choose a book and cannot wait until it is their turn to come over to read to Baby!
As they read, many of the kids take special care to show Baby the pictures in the book before they turn the pages. Baby rests calmly on her blanket and listens, without judgment, as the children read their chosen books. We’ve learned about sea creatures, Clifford, Shrek, and the solar system, and heard lots of other stories!
After everyone has had their turn to read to her, we usually end up surrounded by kids who are eager to learn about Baby. The kids ask all kinds of questions — “How old is she? What treats does she like? Does she know any tricks?” We often end up talking about respectful ways to handle pets, pet health and safety, dog-training, the importance of tags (ID and rabies), and other important things to know when caring for a dog.
Baby gets the massage she was waiting for.
I’ve even showed the kids a demonstration of how to “scoop the poop” using some of Baby’s bright pink Mutt Mitt bags (we used my keys as the item being scooped, so it was a completely clean demo!). And sometimes the kids just snuggle up next to Baby, resting, petting her, and relaxing for a few minutes before moving on to the next class activity.
Now that the summer program is over, Baby has a new reading blanket and we’re looking forward to fall when we can return to the school and reconnect with our extended family of friends at Pecan Springs!
To learn more about The Pit Crew, visit our website.