Thursday, 21 March 2013

Reading To Dogs by Ruth Symes / Megan Rix

My golden retriever, Traffy, has been a therapy dog for the last three years and has been irregularly visiting our local school for children with multiple sensory impairments as well as a home for people with Alzheimer's. It wasn't supposed to be irregular it was supposed to be regular but last year Traffy got very sick and had to have a benign tumour, the size of a newborn baby, removed from her abdomen. She'd had the same problem three years before but the cause of the problem wasn't diagnosed then, which it now has been and so hopefully there'll be no more tumours and she's back to being her healthy, full of energy, lovely self. The first time she had the problem I was told that she should be put down as there was no hope of her getting better (there'd been complications after the operation) but I said no give her more time and she recovered and once she was fully better she became a therapy dog.

And now she's going to be going into a school as a reading dog which I'm very excited about and hope she will enjoy, which I think she will as she loves children. There's quite a few charities that provide dogs to help children read in schools and I think it's a very good idea. When I told friends about it one of them said they hated reading aloud at school and would have done anything to avoid it.

'But I'd have loved to have read to a dog...'

I would have done too. In preparation for next week's first visit  I now have a special mat for her to sit on with letters on it - so she'll get used to knowing why we're at the school and I have been practising reading to my dogs on it. (It's only Traffy who's going but my other goldie, Bella, likes sitting on the mat too.) They react to being read to differently but both are happy to sit on the mat and have a cuddle. Traffy watches my face all the time I'm  reading but Bella looks at each of the pictures as I point at them. Tray's also now got a special book with lots of photos and text about the things she likes to do to take with her.

We're going in with our area reading advisor and I think there's going to be some group activity as well as individual reading. I'm a tiny bit worried that they'll want long sessions and over-tire her - although so far when we've visited places if she's had enough she goes to the door and gives me a pointed look to tell me it's time to go. I'm only planning to visit once a month at first.

I think lots of schools would like visits. This morning a  teacher friend told me how they'd really like a therapy dog in their school for a boy who's having huge problems making friends and very poor social skills.

'A therapy dog could help...' she said wistfully.

Maybe. I think probably. In my opinion dogs usually do help.

Anyway, will let you know how it goes. I'd love to hear if you've had any experience with therapy or reading dogs.

Ruth writes both as Ruth Symes and Megan Rix.
Ruth Symes' website is
Megan Rix's is
and her dog Bella tweets at puppy girl_bella.

Megan's latest book 'The Victory Dogs' is published by 
Puffin on 4 April. It's set during the Blitz and is about two
puppies born on the London Underground.


Joan Lennon said...

Reading to a dog is a lovely idea. I remember one of my boys reading to a herd of young cows once - they were riveted - the perfect audience.

Stroppy Author said...

My bints used to read to hand-reared chix. One was named Kitamura because she so liked Satoshi Kitamura books.

Ruth Symes said...

Cows and chicks - so cute! Can't wait to tell the children that it's not just dogs that can be read too. Love the Kitamura story. Traffy's just recently taken to sitting on my lap as soon as I get out my laptop if I'm working on the bed (and she's a big dog) slightly worried we might be banned if she sits on a child.

Ann Turnbull said...

This is such a good idea! And it has reminded me of something a friend of mine told me. She was hoping to introduce the concept of Braille to a class of 5 year olds, and she asked if anyone knew how people who were blind managed to read. There was a moment of puzzled silence - and then a child said, "They get a dog and it reads to them."

Ruth Symes said...

LOL that is brilliant!