"Whatever the reason, the love of a book
is meant to be shared."
~Terry Doherty
All-Around READing Dogs
Indiana ~ "Henry"  

One day Emma said one of the second graders Henry reads with told her, "Now whenever I read, I imagine that Henry is sitting beside me and I just pretend I'm reading to him, and that way I don't get nervous!" The students have also made some colorful thank-you cards for Henry, including one made by a severely dyslexic child. The letters may not be even, but it’s spelled perfectly. Emma notes, “Dogs can inspire kids to do great things!”

Shih Tzu with thank-you cards written by young students

It's fun to receive colorful, creative cards.

Henry also visits the Lawrenceburg Public Library with three other Pet Partners teams, which just might be his favorite venue of all now since he gets to meet new kids, hear stories, be lazy, and hang out with his other therapy dog buddies.

Shih Tzu therapy dog at Lawrenceburg  library

Looking forward to lots of
readers today.

Emma comments that time and again she’s seen rowdy kids behave, special needs kids calm down and focus, and struggling readers enjoy reading, all because of the presence of this little 8-1/2 pound dog.

Shih Tzu on blue bed

Henry waits for the kids
in his special place.

Somehow Henry makes reading become a calm and relaxing activity for all involved. She says it’s amazing how the kids love reading now, they are excited to practice, and they’re improving at their reading skills beyond what the reading specialists had ever hoped for. She can’t explain it, but says it’s beautiful.

Shih Tzu lying on its back

Ahh, relaxing and maybe waiting
for a tummy rub?

Yes, Henry has a very busy schedule these days, but there is no need to feel at all sorry for him—he loves it. Surely, if he could talk, he would say he has the best job in the world.

Emma Risinger's drawing of her Shih Tzu and a young boy


A very talented artist, Emma was inspired to recreate a photo of Henry with a young student. This is her drawing.

Books with a Shih Tzu in the story include:

Babette's Pack: A Heartwarming and Inspirational Sog Story of a Spunky Lirttle Shiih Tzu with Uncanny Abilities, by Kathryn Walter
Spice Princess the Talking Shih Tzu:She is Fun to Live With! by Martha Elaine Patrone

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

Born in May 2013, Henry is a purebred Shih Tzu. An interesting fact, according to a description on the Animal Planet TV show, is that the little Shih Tzu is actually more closely related to the wolf than many other breeds. It is one of the oldest breeds of dog, originally bred in Tibet as a lap dog more than 2,000 years ago. It lived in the Chinese Imperial Court, where it was given the name “Lion Dog,” and legend has it they slept at the foot of the nobles’ beds and acted as foot warmers. Today they are noted as being outgoing, affectionate, and playful companions.

Shih Tzu show dog

Such a busy fellow, but
sometimes Henry can be lazy, as well.

When Henry came to live with Emma, she socialized him, trained him, and groomed him to be a show dog.

Shih Tzu show dog

Henry earned several first-place blue ribbons.

But Henry had other ideas. It seemed he was thrilled when anyone stopped to pet him, but appeared hurt when people , including judges, came to examine him and then just stepped away. Although Henry was well socialized and did okay in the show ring, Emma began to notice he simply didn’t like being there. He would much rather be sitting on someone’s lap or be cradled in his or her arms rather than standing around on his own four feet.

When Emma took Henry with her to visit a nursing home one day, by the time they left he had greeted everyone in the building. He also loves kids, no matter how they behave, and has always enjoyed being read to (although Emma says he has a habit of sitting on the book).

Shih Tzu with book

Come join me,
I'm ready for you now.

It soon became clear Henry was a therapy dog, not a show dog. When only one year old, he passed his Canine Good Citizen test and then his Therapy Dogs International test with flying colors, and began visiting two nursing homes right away. He quickly completed fifty visits and earned his AKC Therapy Dog (THD) title.

Shih Tzu with Pet Partners Therapy Vest

Henry proudly wears his Pet Partners vest.

Because the libraries and hospitals in their area only accept Pet Partners teams, eleven months after passing his TDI test Henry passed his Pet Partners Skills and Aptitude tests with a “Complex” qualification rating. Immediately after that, Emma and Henry became a Reading Education Assistance Dog® team as well.

Shih Tzu with READ tag

Now I also have a R.E.A.D.® tag on my vest.

In addition to the nursing homes, Henry now enjoys visiting two schools. Emma says she has to take the reading specialists at their word when they say that the kids Henry gets to work with are struggling readers because, with Henry as their audience, she’s never heard them struggle to read!

Shih Tzu with books

Henry surrounded by special books,
including one called

Emma had a book made about Henry, which the youngsters claim is their favorite book now, and they ask every day when the next Henry-visit will be.