"Read books. They are good for us"
~Natalie Goldberg
All-Around READing Dogs
Missouri ~ "Nicky"  

Rottweiler therapy dog

Nicky has a few favorite books you can pick from!

At the second school, Nicky really showed his abilities. These were special ed youngsters who looked forward to his visits and made every effort to get ready to read to “Nick the READ Dog.” They knew they were very special because Nick the READ Dog came to them every Tuesday. Nicky seemed to know when someone was having a bad day and would put his paw on their leg or just look at them in a special way. Sometimes Marie tells children that Nick needs to be petted when they read to him, because he needs some special attention today. They will pet him and later ask if they made him feel better. That class had some very special children, and Marie shares a story about just one of them:


This particular little boy is a nonverbal autistic; he can hear but does not talk. He is very petite. The first time he met us, he would hardly look at Nicky and refused to touch him. The second time he was more interested in looking and touching. The third time he was signing the Cheerios Animal Play Book, putting the Cheerios in the proper holes in the book and letting Nicky eat the Cheerios while he held the book.

The teachers were amazed. They said he had never had any kind of interaction with anyone the whole time he had been in their classroom. The fourth time he was signing, asking for the book. He even started laughing out loud when a Cheerio dropped on the floor and Nicky would find it. For some reason he connected with Nicky and Nicky with him.

Marie is looking forward to her third year working with Nicky at these two schools, and possibly two other schools in their area. In the meantime, Nicky is helping to train Marie’s new Sheltie, Mia. Hopefully, she will follow in his pawsteps. “Nicky is so very special,” says Marie. “He has such a good heart, is a well-mannered gentleman, and will do anything to please me. He is so proud of himself when he accomplishes something new.”

Marie and Nicky were honored to receive the 2009 Excellence in Education Volunteer in Support of Education award for the Kearney R-I School District by the Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Books about Shelties, and other special titles Nicky might recommend, include:

The Cheerios Animal Play Book, by Lee Wade

The Adventures of Seamus the Sheltie, by James Beverly

More Tales of Seamus the Sheltie, by James Beverly

The Beginner’s Guide to Dog Agility, by Laurie Leach

The Diary of Lucy Blue, by Janice Mitchell

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


Nicky, with the impressive full name of Autumn Sky Saint Nicholas, is a Shetland Sheepdog. Resembling a Collie in miniature, the Shetland Sheepdog (“Sheltie”) developed on the barren Shetland Islands, an area known for producing very small livestock. Shelties were used to herd both sheep and Shetland ponies around the islands in search of enough to graze on, and charged with keeping the ponies out of vegetable gardens when food was scarce.

Fun Fact: Early dogs were referred to as "toonie dogs" (toon being the local Shetland word for farm).

Shelties are known to be intensely loyal, affectionate and responsive to their owners. They love their families but may be reserved toward strangers; however, they are also bright, sensitive, and willing to please. Properly socialized, Shelties like Nicky can be gentle, playful, companionable, and excellent with children.

Slightly taller and heavier than the breed standard, Nicky is not a show dog but he excels in many other ways. He has earned 19 titles in obedience and agility, and Marie, his owner, hopes he will earn a tracking title someday. Marie and Nicky belong to Mo-Kan Partners and volunteer at grade schools in the Kearney/Holt area of Missouri. After being approved by the school district, they began at two schools. They spent 1-1/2 hrs at the first school, where the second grade children had searched their library for dog books to read to Nicky. Nicky really enjoyed the contact with the children and just lay there looking at the book the child was reading to him. Afterward, a treat was in order, something he always enjoys as do the children when they get to interact with him.