Do you believe in second chances? At one year old, Junior, a homeless golden retriever got his. He went from a homeless shelter dog to a second career helping children read. Junior’s path to a life of service and the journey of other therapy dogs like him is proof of the power of second chances and the untapped possibilities of shelter dogs.
Life was not always full of purpose for the golden retriever. Just a few years ago, Junior was alone, unwanted, and abandoned, left by his owner at a shelter. The golden retriever now works as a therapy dog and reads with children as a registered Reading Education Assistance Dog.
The young dog’s journey began four years ago when Dallas Fort Worth Metro Golden Retriever Rescue ,www.rescuegoldens.org, rescued Junior from a shelter. He was adopted and his new handler saw how friendly and outgoing the young dog was. He and his handler then trained hard, honed their partnership and worked together to pass the requirements to become a registered therapy dog team. They went on to achieve additional credentials as a Reading Education Assistance Dog team.
Now, on most Saturdays, Junior reads with children at Dallas area libraries. During reading sessions, Junior wags his tail, listens attentively and uses his paw to hold a place in the book while the young reader explains the story line and shows the pages to the interested canine. During reading sessions, the R.E.A.D. dog often also gets a chance to teach lessons about hope, second chances and persistence. Junior had to work hard to pass his therapy dog test. He shares, through his handler, "If you work hard and keep trying, you can reach your goals”. The kids seem to get the message.
Why do the kids enjoy reading to a canine companion?
Dogs are great listeners. Dogs don’t judge, criticize or laugh, no matter the skill of the reader.With a canine mentor, children can relax and have fun reading. The power of the human animal bond is a motivating force for frequent reading and learning for readers of all ages.
Many working therapy dogs get their start when they are adopted from a shelter or an animal rescue. Rescue staff or shelter staff may often be able to identify dogs with potential for therapy work. Any breed dog can become a therapy dog if the dog meets the temperment, health requirements and qualifications.
Therapy Dogs and Reading Education Assistance Dogs provide motivation, support, comfort and the healing of the human animal bond in many roles. Many dogs just wait in a shelter for a second chance to show that they have the potential to bring the healing force of the human animal bond to someone in need.
To qualify to become a registered Pet Partners team volunteers must complete special training. The handler-animal team must pass a skills and aptitude test, and the animal must complete a health screening. Teams are required to pass an evaluation every two years. Additional training and testing are required to become a Reading Education Assistance Dog team. For more information about becoming a Pet Partner therapy dog team visit Pet Partners at www.petpartners.org. or other therapy dog organizations. For information about becoming R.E.A.D. dog team visit www.therapyanimals.org .
Giving a second chance to a shelter dog may mean that someday that gift gets returned in a furry head on a lap during a good story. All shelter dogs may need is that second chance.
But they don't need a library card. At least, not yet.