""Dogs are miracles with paws."
~ Susan Kennedy
All-Around READing Dogs
Virginia ~ "Crystal"  

Therapy dog listens to students read.

Two happy READers.

One year, while reading The Tortoise and the Hare, Jan asked one of the students if he could tell Crystal what a hare was. She said Crystal knows what a rabbit is but didn't know the word "hare," so if he explained it to her, then she would understand. (She had taught Crystal the word, “rabbit,” because they have rabbits near home and she loves to chase them!) When the student said "rabbit," Crystal's ears and facial expression immediately changed. The boy got so tickled, and at their party at the end of the year, he asked if any of the other students in the program knew "our secret." Jan said "No," and he gave her a huge smile.

In return, Crystal taught that student what the word "crawl" meant in the same story by demonstrating a crawl for him right there on the blanket! " Oh," he said, "that's what that word means."

Calm therapy dogs like Crystal often make a difference in children's attitudes toward reading. Students look forward to practicing their reading and to picking out books to share that they think their R.E.A.D. visitor will like a lot.

Books about Border Collies include:

A Puppy for Annie, by Kim Lewis
Champ, by Marcia Thornton Jones
Sheepdog in the Snow, by Ben M. Baglio

Books about Golden Retrievers include:

Ben: The Very Best Furry Friend, by Holly Raus
My Big Dog, by Susan Stevens Crummel
The Secret of Saying Thanks, by Douglas Wood

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

Crystal was a beautiful 3-1/2-month-old puppy calmly sitting in the a cage at the local SPCA when Jan happened upon her in 2001. At the time, Jan didn’t know this would be the beginning of a new future in volunteering as a therapy dog team, she only knew her heart melted at the sight of Crystal.

A Golden Retriever/Border Collie mix, many people would expect Crystal to be rather energetic and always on the go. However, every dog is different, even among the same breed. Because Crystal was so calm and well mannered, several people suggested Jan look for something special for her “to do.” Finally, she called the local hospital, which was just starting an Animal-Assisted Therapy program. Soon, in addition to participating in AAT at the hospital, Crystal and Jan began visiting two nursing homes and two hospice groups.

Already a Pet Partners evaluator and instructor, Jan then attended a R.E.A.D.® conference. She enjoyed that so much, she attended a second conference, during which she took a class to become a R.E.A.D. evaluator. Although she did not complete all of the requirements for evaluator at that time, she started a reading program at the local library along with other registered therapy teams. She and Crystal then also became active in the reading program begun a few years earlier by a service dog organization.

Therapy dog listens to books with young girl.

Crystal smiles for a photo
while waiting for her next story.

Below is a picture of their reading group in 2012 at W. Salem. Jan and Crystal are on the left, and Janell with her dog, Carri, are on the right. At this party the children received donuts, milk, a book, and a paw-shaped medal which has the word READING across it with a red, white, and blue ribbon which also says READING.

Golden retrievers participate in reading group at a Virginia elementary school.

Everyone enjoys a party at the
end of the school year.

Active at West Salem Elementary School in Salem, Virginia, since 2010, Jan says reading with the students is one of her favorite activities, especially because “You never know what those children will say!”