"I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love.
For me they are the role model for being alive.”
~ Gilda Radner
All-Around READing Dogs
New Jersey ~ "Nicki"  

Shiloh Shepherd therapy dog with children reading books.

Nicki and her special friends.

It was a very special day when the older children finally read to her, and as time went on they became very confident when reading to her. Their basic reading skills began to show improvement as they began to read out loud, and if there was a word they didn’t know, they were happy to ask how to pronounce it. Nicki even had a young deaf child sign The Night Before Christmas to her before the holiday.

Sometimes the autistic or troubled children posed special challenges. Nicki could walk into a classroom and, if she heard one particular child making a fuss, she could calm him to the point where he would cooperate and read aloud for everyone to hear. After he cooperated and finished reading, Nicki would be allowed to go over to him and give him a huge kiss, which would make his day! She became the boy’s pillow when he would read to her. Sometimes the children in that class would take out a book of alphabet rhymes and would ask Nicki, “What is this letter?” Her handler would pretend Nicki would say that letter, and the kids would recite that rhyme to her. Over time it was obvious how Nicki used her power of persuasion to overcome the difficult and sensitive children’s unruliness and help to control the class so the teachers could teach.

Shiloh Shepherd ready to hear another story.

Tell me more!

When Nicki enters a classroom, the children immediately beg to read a book to her, as if she would be there all day. The school principal has realized what a vital learning tool she is and has allowed her visits to expand beyond the initial 15-minute period she initially spent. Also, because of their success with the children, Nicki and her handler have volunteered to attend school a second day each week, hoping to continue the success of the R.E.A.D. program with the kindergarten and first grade students. In addition, Nicki has been invited to other schools and may soon begin a story time at the local Borders Book Store.

Nicki is a 4-year-old Shiloh Shepherd. Shiloh Shepherds are a rare breed that look somewhat like a long-haired German Shepherd. They are known to do just about anything and everything their owners ask of them, asking for only love in return. It is said their large size, intelligence, versatility, and endurance come from working breeds such as the German Shepherd and Alaskan Malamute, and these traits help them perform well in many areas such as therapy and assistance work, obedience trials, agility competition, search and rescue teams, and as guard dogs, not to mention making them great companions.

Nicki became a registered therapy dog when she was less than 1-½ years old. She seemed to love it, and she brought pleasure to the patients by always offering them her paw. Nicki is the first Shiloh Shepherd to be involved with the R.E.A.D.® program. Although a very successful therapy dog, Nicki had not been raised around small children and no one was sure how she would react in a library setting. It was a wonderful surprise to see such a big dog enjoy the children the way she did. Apparently she knew what they wanted of her, and she was always happy to oblige. She began monthly visits to the library, and also occasionally helped out at the local schools.

This therapy dog listening to children read is a Shiloh Shepherd.

Nicki and the little ones.

In 2006, the Hammonton Early Childhood Education Center found out that Nicki was doing this program and asked about having her come into the school to work with autistic and troubled children, as well as with preschoolers. Amazingly, that challenge came naturally to her. When she began at the school, the children adored her. She would lie there for them so they could just touch and pet her knowing that she wasn’t going to hurt them. Children too young to read would sing songs or recite rhymes to her that they had learned from their teachers.