"Dogs love company. They place it first in their short list of needs."
~ J. R. Ackerley
All-Around READing Dogs
Virginia ~ "Titus"  

Therapy dog visits hospital patient.

Patients in INOVA Fairfax Hospital
enjoy Titus's comforting presence.

Titus not only has therapy training but also Red Cross Disaster Team and crisis response training. In addition to his R.E.A.D. duties, Titus has been instrumental in calming others in numerous situations such as grief counseling and funerals for children, a Take Back the Night Rally, and visits to Snowden Psychiatric Hospital and McLean Bible Church Access Respite for special needs children. He was also deployed to Texas in 2008 after Hurricane Ike.

Therapy dog patiently allows special needs children to pet and brush him

Eye-hand coordination and attention to task
are some of the goals of placing clips
on Titus.

Kris and Titus not only work on reading with children but also in a variety of activites designed to help children with special needs improve skills and increase confidence. For example, in brushing Titus and placing clips on him, the students are following multi-step instructions, increasing fine and gross motor control, recognizing colors and clip sizes, deciding which type or color of clip to use and where to place it, and modulating brushing pressure and stroke length.


Books about Golden Retrievers include:

A Friend Like Henry: the remarkable true story of an
autistic boy and the dog that unlocked his world
, by Nuala Gardener
Cowboy and Wills: A Love Story, by Monica Holloway
I, Trixie, Who is Dog, by Dean Koontz


The Cheerios books that Titus loves include:

The Cheerios Animal Play Book, by Lee Wade
The Cheerios Christmas Play Book, by Lee Wade
The Cheerios Halloween Play Book, by Lee Wade
The Cheerios Play Book, by Lee Wade

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

Titus is a Golden Retriever. This popular breed is known for its intelligence and eagerness to please, traits that make it ideal for work such as search and rescue, hunting companion, service or guide dog, and, naturally, Reading Education Assistance Dog.

Therapy dog shakes hands with young girl.

A proper introduction between Titus
and the young lady.

Titus belongs to Kris, a retired school teacher. Kris's goal in retiring early was to be able to serve children in special needs classes with her therapy dog, and she has fulfilled that desire by serving nearly 60 children. Her primary focus is autistic children, and Titus helps her in many ways.

Golden retriever is part of a Red Cross Disaster Team

Titus participates in a talk about the
Red Cross Disaster Team.

Most of the children they work with cannot read, so they focus on letter recognition and sounds. A favorite activity of many of the children is the Cheerios books. This series of books also provides opportunities for the children to work on small motor coordination and speech.

Golden retriever therapy dog looks at book with child

"Oh boy, I love this book!"

The students tell Titus "leave it" and then put the Cheerios on certain spots in the books. Then even some of the children who normally will not speak will happily say "Eat!" for Titus to clean the page. Kris says getting children who are nonverbal to say anything at all is amazing.

Golden retriever therapy dog watches as children read books to him

Please say "Eat!" Please, please, please say "Eat!"

If you choose this activity for your reading sessions, Kris suggests having a "slobber rag" available to wipe each page down, or the pages will stick together. (The children love to wipe the pages.)

This golden retriever watches as children practice reading.

"Thanks for pointing that out to me."

Another activity Kris does is to have the kids point to a certain thing in a picture. Getting these youngsters to focus and look at a page and pick out something is the picture is often very hard, but if Titus is in their lap and they have to do it to have Titus with them, they will focus and follow commands to pick out something.