Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reading to Ranger at the Library

Ranger loves being a registered therapy dog. Today he spent a couple of hours listening to kids read to him at the library. There were three teams in a big conference room. We got there first so I picked our spot in a nice corner with a nice cool brick wall to lean on. Our corner wasn't instantly obvious from the door and I was amused when Ranger moved away from the corner to lay more in the middle of the room where no one could miss him.

There were quite a few kids wanting to read to the dogs. It was nice that there were three dogs for the kids to read to so there wasn't a lot of waiting and the kids were good about taking turns. I got a bit tired of "Gilbert Goldfish Gets a Pet" and "Fancy Nancy and Pajama Day" which several of the kids picked to read to Ranger. Fortunately, for me several of the kids read very quietly so I didn't have to hear every word over and over. Ranger doesn't care what books they read to him. He's just happy to listen and get petting.

When we first registered with Therapy Dog International I made some trading cards of Ranger. I had a new batch printed and we were giving them to the kids. The other two dogs had bookmarks. the kids seemed to get a kick out of collecting all three items. On Ranger's card it lists K9 sign as one of his tricks. One boy was especially impressed by this. His cousin goes to school where they use sign language. He asked me if Ranger could sign ABCs and I talked about why Ranger couldn't make all the same gestures to sign that a person can. For example, Ranger's wrist doesn't bend the same way a human's does. When we compared the signs for water it turns out that they are very similar. The sign the boy showed me mimed drinking out of a cup or bottle. In K9 sign the gesture is brushing the left paw along the side of the mouth and cheek. It was pretty interesting.

Most of the adults were interested in the fact that Ranger knows some K9 sign. One of the librarians even came in to meet him because she heard some people talking about one of the dogs knowing K9 sign. And one of the other handlers was very interested. I hadn't brought any special treats, just whatever was in the bag in the car so I didn't have any chicken or cheese just "food." The other handler had some cheese flavored treats that she shared with me so I could demonstrate that Ranger knows the difference and uses different signs for food and cheese. 
One of the boys that came to read to Ranger had a Wimpy Kid book with lots of questions. He was having a really good time posing the questions to Ranger and I was answering them for him. One of the questions was "what practical jokes have you played on your parents?" I remember one joke that Ranger thought was very funny that I didn't think was nearly as amusing. We were at the dog park and Ranger had jumped up onto the picnic table. I told him to get off and he ignored me. When I reached for his collar to tug him off he growled and barked at me. I backed away and looked at him in surprise and disapproval. That's the point where Ranger gave me a big doggie grin and laughed before jumping off the table. He thought it was a great joke.

One of the girls that read to Ranger was a very reluctant reader. I'm not even sure she could read and she looked to be about 8 years old. It was good to watch her relax into reading the pictures as Ranger laid there listening. When she'd use words to tell the picture that were in the text I'd show her the words on the page. These are the kids that benefit the most from reading to a dog. 
Two hours was a long time. We took a break after about an hour and went out so Ranger could have a drink of water. It amuses people no end that Ranger drinks from a water bottle. I had him paws up on the edge of a flower bed so all the water that he doesn't drink goes somewhere useful. About 45 minutes into the second hour Ranger completely sacked out. He looks so sweet when he's asleep. At the end of the time we'd agreed to be there we went back outside and Ranger had another long drink of water. He was ready to go back in again but agreed to go home when I said we were done. 
If you want to read Ranger's version of reading at the library you can find it at http://www.dogster.com/dogs/658330/diary/Wag_more_bark_less/788472


  1. I loved reading your day with Ranger at the library!! I hear it makes a big difference for kids to read to animals because it helps them relax as animals aren't judgmental.

    I loved reading about the k9 sign because I recently met a woman with a deaf dog. She uses sign language to communicate basic commands with her dog.

  2. Wow, yuo sure is a smartie. Mum thinks i'm a smart budgie and told me that you had your own bloggie thingy here too. i thought to come by and say hi to you.

    its so cool you get out more than i do, but being a budgie, Mum cant take me to librarys or other places like you do becawse birdies arent allowed on buses. strange that.

    she gives me lots of cuddles and lets me talk to the big wild birdies outside from the back door. the funniest time was when i found out she couldnt fly. but it was also hard becawse she broke a bone in her foot and she had a stick to walk with for a wile.

    but she is still a cool human anyway.

    (NB: Little Miss Stevie tried putting the above comment onto Ranger's own blog, but it wouldn't let her, so I've cut and pasted it here on yours. I got all the answers right too even though they were numbers.)

  3. I was very interested to hear about Ranger's reading day because I run a similar program at my library. I give credit to Ranger for paying attention for so long, because a lot of my dogs fall asleep during the first 15 minutes of the program. The handlers say that it's because the kids are very soothing, and for the dogs it is like a bedtime story. I empathize with you about hearing stories over and over. Around here it is "Fly Guy" and "Dogzilla". "Dogzilla" is a take-off on Godzilla, and very clever. Most kids find it very funny, although they don't get the reference. I find that a surprising number of the children aren't eager to pet the dogs, some are a little scared. But I feel that the program is a good way to meet a friendly, obedient dog; a good first step for children.