"Pair a person with a canine and you have
a powerful partnership."
~Donna M. Jackson

All-Around READing Dogs
California ~ "Rx: Pets"  

Smooth Collie listening to child read a story.

This child is reading about how to
safely meet a dog.

Learning to read is often less about intellectual limitation than about overcoming fears. Animals are ideal reading companions because they:

  • Help increase relaxation and lower blood pressure
  • Listen attentively
  • Do not judge, laugh, or criticize
  • Allow children to proceed at their own pace
  • Are less intimidating than peers

Looks like "Sam" thinks
this story is fascinating.

Sam and her partner, Terry, visit Bella Vista Elementary School every other Monday to listen to first grade students read. Participating kids make enormous strides in reading and communication skills while, along the way, building self-esteem, confidence and social skills. And there are bonus benefits – performance in other subjects tends to improve, as does attendance and even personal hygiene.

Nellie love her R.E.A.D. job.

Nellie looks like she's smiling while surrounded by youngsters. Nellie is a very rare, unique breed called a Korean Jindo. A medium-size dog, they are known to be loyal and gentle; however they are also very intelligent and active, traits which mean they might need more attention and supervision than other breeds. Like all therapy dogs, Nellie is right at home helping everyone around her feel good. She adores doing tricks, especially pulling out Kleenex for anyone who says "ACHOO" and playing "pick a card...any card."

Sugar is practicing for her next R.E.A.D. session.

Sugar, a Collie, is a 10th generation descendant of the original Lassie. Her registered name is Lassie's Spoonful of Sugar, and she is a sweetheart. She has been listening to young readers since 2008 but visits hospitals and nursing homes more often. She is the only therapy Collie in their area. Her partner, Sue, states that when Sugar works with people who have Alzheimer's disease, she sometimes triggers memories of their childhood days watching Lassie on television and in the movies and the result can be some stimulating conversations!

R.E.A.D. dogs are registered therapy animals that volunteer with their owner/handlers as a team, going to schools, libraries, and many other settings as reading companions for children.

One book everyone enjoys (and finds useful) is May I Pet Your Dog? shown at the top of this page in the photo with Shasta.

Books about Dachshunds like Shasta and Coco include:
Moxie: The Dachshund of Fallingwater, by Cara Armstrong
The Dachshunds That Saved Christmas, by Robert Bruce Ankrum
Wiener Wolf, by Jeff Crosby

Books about Rat Terriers like Samantha include:
Nicky the Swamp Dog: A True Story, by
Snook Alone, by Marilyn Nelson

Two of Sam's favorite books are:
A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka
How Rocket Learned to Read, by Tad Hills

Although not stories about Korean Jindos, some of Nellie's favorite books are:
Before You Were Mine, by Maribeth Boelts
Buddy Unchained, by Daisy Bix
Clarence Goes Out West and Meets a Purple Horse, by Jean Ekman Adams
Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine, & a Miracle, by Major Brian Dennis, Mary Nethery, and Kirby Larson

Books about Collies like Sugar include:
Lad, A Dog: Best Dog in the World, by Margo Lundell
Sandwiches for Duke, by Judy Ann Sadler and Lorna Bennett
The Christmas Collie, by Ted Paul and Mary Kummer

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


Since 2000 Rx: Pets has been bringing the healing power of pets to communities in Northern California, specifically in, Redding, Red Bluff, Eureka, and Fortuna.

Their volunteer Pet Partner® teams are trained for animal assisted activities (AAA), animal assisted therapy (AAT), and Reading Education Assistance Dogs, R.E.A.D.®  These experienced volunteers visit facilities such as local hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, rehabilitation centers, women’s shelters, schools, and libraries. Rx: Pets also provides meaningful education to the public about the healing power of animals. Though most of the animals in Rx: Pets are dogs and cats, there have also been rabbits, a rat, a chicken, and a miniature horse involved in the organization.

Australian Shepherd therapy dog

Shasta with a few classmates.

Shasta, above, is a Dachshund. Sometimes called a Doxie or a Wiener Dog, Dachshunds are a lively breed known for their long, low bodies and friendly personalities. Shasta has a smooth coat, but Dachshunds can also be wirehaired and longhaired. Shasta still lives in the home where he was born, along with his mom, Chloe, and five other Dachshunds. Home is sometimes called "Wienerville."

Shasta's right at home in Wienerville!

The benefits of incorporating animals to promote health and healing are fast becoming widely known. A study conducted at UCLA Medical Center and published by the American Heart Association showed that visits by volunteer-dog teams has a measurable positive effect on the variables that characterize heart failure, such as cardiac and neurological functioning as well as psychological mood enhancement.

Australian Shepherd therapy dog with two young readers

Shasta specializes in visiting ICU patients
and brightening up their day.

Animals are a marvelous health tonic. If we include them in our lives, we shall live longer and certainly more rewarding lives.

Coco is an example of a longhaired Dachshund. In addition to the three types of coat in a wide variety of colors, Dachshunds also can be miniature or standard size. Coco is a wonderful visiting dog that loves all creatures great and small. He is a character and makes everyone laugh often.

Happy children look forward to reading
with a gentle dog like Coco.

The Reading Education Assistance Dogs® (R.E.A.D.) program improves children’s reading and communication skills by employing a powerful method: reading to a dog. But not just any dog.

Samantha ("Sam") happily greets a
young reader showing her what
story they'll share.

Rat Terriers like Sam are an American breed that is likely a mixture of many breeds, including Fox Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Beagle, Whippet, Italian Greyhound, and others. Typically loyal, active, and playful, Rat Terriers may be reserved with strangers but are intelligent and easy to train. Sam. By the time she was 11, Sam had been a therapy dog for 10 years and a R.E.A.D. partner for 4 years.