"A mind once stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimensions."
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
All-Around READing Dogs
Arizona ~ "Gabriel"  

Shortly after their training for the R.E.A.D.® program, they started doing reading programs at the local libraries in Dade City and Brooksville, Florida. Gabriel was the first dog to volunteer at the libraries in Hernando County, Florida, and was even featured in a newspaper article. The children all clamored for a chance to read to Gabriel and proudly wore the sticker presented to them after reading, which stated, "I read to Gabriel today."

Shih-Tzu-Poodle therapy dog at the Academy at the Farm charter school.

Wearing his Academy at the Farm tee shirt,
Gabriel is ready for the next reader.

They were also asked to be a READing Team at Academy at the Farm, a charter school in Dade City, Florida, where they were assigned to the second grade. Gabriel was a hit as he provided an opportunity for children to improve their reading scores and bolstered the confidence of children struggling to read out loud.

On a more serious note, Gabriel and Donna were also an inaugural team of Dade City Dogs in Court. We were one of 6 dogs teams who went into the Dependency Court every Wednesday to help children and adults going through the court system.

Additionally, Gabriel and Donna are a team with HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response. This all-volunteer nonprofit organization sends specially trained handlers and their dogs to provide comfort and support to first responders and victims of disasters. Since moving to Arizona in June 2014, they were called out twice during the monsoon events where people were victims of floodwaters.

Shih Tzu-Poodle therapy dog rides a turtle at an animal rescue fund raiser.

Have you ever ridden a turtle?

One day Gabriel rode Donna's friend's turtle at a benefit for animal rescue. He will try anything Donna asks him to do, because he trusts her.

Now settled in their new home in Surprise, Arizona, they are looking forward to visiting local libraries and hospice centers. Donna say she has personally observed the difference dogs make when they are introduced into a school or library program, and she is eager to get involved with the community.

Books about a Shih Tzu, let alone a Shih Tzu mix, are hard to find, so for now Gabriel has other favorites to listen to.

Cool Dog, School Dog
How Rocket Learned to Read
May I Pet Your Dog?

Books with a Poodle in the story include:

A Poodle in Paris
Mr. Doodle Had a Poodle
Sometimes I Wonder if Poodles Like Noodles

(Click on the titles above for a brief description and convenient ordering information.)

Born in 2011, Gabriel is a mixed breed of Shih-Tzu and Poodle, sometimes affectionately called a "Shih-Poo." He was named after Gabriel, the "Angel of Good News" in the Bible. Gabriel weighs about 25 pounds, which is a good size to be small enough to sit on someone’s lap but large enough to handle lots of little hands petting him. Because of the poodle in him, he has hair, not fur. This means he does not shed nor does he have dander, so people with allergies are usually not affected by his presence.

Shih-Tzu-Poodle therapy dog reading with children.

Looks like Gabriel also wants to see
the pictures in the book.

Gabriel began puppy classes when he and his owner, Donna, lived in Florida and he was just 4 months old. Eager to please and quick to learn, he soon progressed to obedience and on to agility classes. This amazing youngster started his career as a therapy dog around the time of his first birthday! He quickly took to his role of therapy dog and acts very serious when he wears his working vest. He seems to know his job is to put smiles on people's faces.

Shih-Tzu-Poodle therapy dog raises his paw in a High Five.

Gabriel shows off his "high five,"
which he does with children when they've
finished reading to him.

Donna commented that when taking Gabriel out on therapy visits, she found that this mix of dog breeds seems to be naturally drawn to children. She does not have any little children around her house, but when they were out in the public Gabriel would approach children calmly and carefully, wanting the child to pet and play with him. Since he had a natural affinity for children, Donna thought he would be a good R.E.A.D.® partner.

Shih Tzu-Poodle therapy dog in Halloween bat costume.

Halloween is always fun.

Gabriel's bat outfit includes wings and a hat with ears and the football outfit has a helmet and sock tennis shoes .

Shih Tzu-Poodle therapy dog in Halloween football costume.

Football season? He's a winner!

Gabriel is real ham and easily poses for the camera. He proudly walks around in full costume visiting nursing homes and school, especially during halloween. He loves the attention from adults and children alike.