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R.E.A.D. to Dog program offered at library

August 29, 2018
By MEGHAN McCOY (news@breezenewspapers.com) , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Youngsters are encouraged to join Gunner at East County Regional Library Saturday, Sept. 8, to practice their reading skills in a fun environment.

Youth Services Programming Coordinator Amy-Jane McWilliam said the R.E.A.D. to Dog program is geared towards children in kindergarten through fifth grade.

"It's a way for them to improve their literacy skills in a nonintimidating way," she said. "Children don't have to sign up, but they do have to sign in. They are each given time to read to the therapy dog."

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Gunner, a chocolate lab, pointer mix, is a registered therapy dog that visits East County Regional Library once a month, providing the youngsters an opportunity to read to him.
 
PHOTO PROVIDED

McWilliam said the library has offered the program for quite some time, but not always on a consistent basis throughout all of the branches due to the availability of therapy dogs.

"It's a nice way for children that may be nervous about reading, unsure or shy, become more comfortable to read in front of an animal and in public," she said. "It's another way to practice."

Lisa Talcott and her chocolate lab, pointer mix, Gunner, visit the East County Regional Library the second Saturday of every month from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.

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"Gunner and I have been doing it pretty close to two years now," she said of the R.E.A.D. to Dog program.

Gunner, a registered therapy dog, was rescued from the Caloosa Humane Society four years ago.

Before Talcott adopted Gunner, she found out that he was owner-surrendered twice at the Humane Society.

"He sat at the shelter for a year and nobody even looked at him," she said.

For a couple of weeks, Talcott watched Gunner online before she traveled to the Humane Society.

"As soon as I met him, I just knew he would be a therapy dog. His demeanor was calm. He liked people and he was smart," she said.

Talcott is the therapy dog coordinator at the Children's Advocacy Center in Fort Myers. She said they have close to 30 therapy dogs.

"He comes to work with me three days a week. Sometimes he will help out here," Talcott said, adding that they spend their weekends at Gulf Coast Hospital doing therapy work.

Before Gunner and Talcott leave their home for the Saturday reading affair, he gets a bath and has his teeth brushed before he's dressed in his therapy dog collar and vest.

"He is just him. He knows who needs therapy. He just loves people," Talcott said.

While at the library, Gunner sits in a special spot, which is accompanied by a blanket. The therapy dog sits on the blanket, while the kids sit around him.

"While one child is reading the others are petting and talking to Gunner," Talcott said.

Since the duo started, she said she has seen a lot of changes with the kids.

"It gives them confidence in their reading. Gunner is not judging them. It helps with their social skills as well. They interact with Gunner and are able to interact with the kids around him," she said.

Talcott said therapy work is her passion.

"It makes my heart feel good to know that my dog is helping someone else. This dog is my heart. I am so proud of him and what he can do and the affect he has on people," she explained.

East County Regional Library is located at 881 Gunnery Road North. For more information, call (239) 533-4200.

 
 

 

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