Home About Contact Login
Reading to Learn Learning for Life

Pawed Friends Help Young Readers

DALLAS — Davos, the Burnese mountain dog, was in for a treat June 3 at the Dallas Public Library.

One of three dogs in the library’s Read to the Dog program, that afternoon he was more than just a patient listener, but the audience for a spontaneous puppet show.

After reading to Davos, Kyra Weeks, friend Maria Mabry, and Kyra’s younger sister, Cierra, wanted to spend more time with the gentle giant. They put on a show using all the puppets in the children’s section of the library in their impromptu production.

Davos, panting happily the entire time, and his owner, Jean Nielson, watched until it was time for the trio to check out their books.

“I love the program because some kids who are intimidated by reading in front of an adult don’t mind reading to a dog,” Nielson said. “I love it when they show him the pictures. It cracks me up — it’s so sweet.”

A therapy dog, at times Davos does more than just listen. An intimidating sight at 122 pounds and a face the size of a platter, small children can be nervous around him. Davos knows just the trick to calm those fears.

“I think he senses when they are not comfortable, so he will slowly go into a down — he will lay down — so they are not so intimidated,” Nielson said.

Before long, children realize he is just a big, fluffy teddy bear. They treat him as such when they read to him.

“Sometimes he doesn’t act like he is paying attention, but he will lay and he will sprawl and he loves to have the kids come up and cuddle him,” Nielson said.

Davos seems to have been born for that type of interaction, whether it be with children learning to read or adults in nursing homes or care facilities.

“When he was a puppy, we took him to the beach, and instead of playing with the other dogs, he would walk up to people,” Nielson explained. “He would sit down and look up and wait for them to pet him.”

When Davos was about 2 years old, he was trained through Paws for Love to become a certified therapy dog and has been winning hearts since.

Wednesday he had to wait about 15 minutes for someone who wanted to read to show up with a book, but, as always, Davos was ready.

“Are you going to listen?” Nielson said to Davos as third-grader Kadence Morrison approached.

When she began reading Davos would simply watch, still panting, or look at the pictures she would show him.

Next in line was Kyra. She typically visits the library on Tuesday afternoon, so it was a special treat to read to him. She chose “10 Rubber Duckies” for her first book, then picked out “Draw Me a Star” for her second.

“I like that I got to read to him,” she said. “It feels special to me.”

Betty Simpson, the librarian in charge of children’s activities, said Davos has endeared himself to the library users and staff.

“He sits on your feet if he likes you,” she said, smiling.

Two other dogs, Percy, a Great Pyrenees, and Bella, a spaniel, are also part of the program.

They all have fans among the youngsters.

“They come for certain dogs,” Simpson said. “They have their favorites.”

Simpson said adults want to help kids sound out words, but dogs allow them to read at their own pace.

“The dogs just sit there and listen,” she said.