• April 19, 2014

Reading rovers

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Posted: Friday, December 13, 2013 4:30 am

The shuffling of book pages didn’t distract Bradshaw the St. Bernard as 9-year-old Peter Nguyen read “The Mixed Up Chameleon” to him during Reading Rovers Book Club at Stewart C. Meyer Harker Heights Library on Thursday.

The monthly club gives children the opportunity to improve their literacy skills by reading to therapy dogs.

Bradshaw, a therapy dog with Therapy Dogs International, attended the event along with his handler, Linda McNabb, and Will, a 5-year-old English Setter.

While the unusually loud children kept many parents shaking their heads, the dogs were patient and content to give their attention to the children.

“The dogs love to be with the kids,” McNabb said.

Will has participated in the Reading Rovers program since April 2012 when his handler, Melinda White of Harker Heights, began bringing him to the program.

“Will enjoys being around the children,” White said.

McNabb and White also take their dogs to participate in therapy programs for the Veterans Administration in Temple and at Indian Oaks Living Center in Harker Heights.

“At the VA we have to pace the dogs because they absorb the stress and it’s very exhausting for them,” McNabb said.

In contrast, White said the library program is as relaxing for the dogs as it is helpful for the children.

“Will enjoys the therapy work as much as I do, and being a military spouse, it’s something I can do wherever we (move) to,” White said.

Bradshaw has been certified as a therapy dog for almost two years. His brother, Buddy, also a St. Bernard certified in therapy and disaster, stayed home Thursday. The two dogs keep McNabb, a retired Kempner resident, busy traveling around the country to dog shows when they aren’t doing therapy work.

The library staff said they enjoy the therapy dogs’ monthly Reading Rovers visits.

“My favorite part about the dogs being here is seeing a child who’s afraid of dogs come in and an hour later they won’t leave without hugging the dog first,” Kathe Kitchens said.

Nguyen traveled from his home in Copperas Cove to attend Reading Rovers.

“I like this library better than the one in Copperas Cove because there’s more fun stuff to do,” he said. Bradshaw gave a tail wag and continued to listen attentively.

The Reading Rovers will be back at the library at 6 p.m. Jan. 2.

For more information go to www.ci.harker-heights.tx.us/index.php/public-library.

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