Pet Therapy in Maryland - Tail Waggin' Tutors

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Tail Waggin' Tutors

Pet therapy also helps children in ways you may have never considered. It may sound strange, but therapy dogs are actually very good "tutors."

Tail Waggin' Tutors, a program created by Therapy Dogs International (TDI), helps children improve their reading skills by reading aloud to therapy dogs. Many children have difficulty learning to read and are self-conscious when reading aloud in the classroom. They may also feel embarrassed if their teacher corrects them in front of their peers. Reading to a therapy dog is meant to be a positive experience that boosts a child's confidence and self-esteem.

The program has been a great success at the Anne Arundel County Public Library. Katie Bacon, a member of TDI, organizes the program; Bacon's two therapy dogs, Max and Daisy, are the "tutors." Each child who participates in the program meets with Max and Daisy individually. "What's so great about Tail Waggin' Tutors is that it allows kids who don't particularly like reading to make a positive association with reading, by getting to spend time with two very gentle, loving dogs," Bacon says.

She recalls two particularly memorable sessions. One involved a child whose parent had recently left. This child hadn't spoken much since the parent had left the home, but was able read to the dog. The second session involved a student who had never read more than one paragraph to the reading teacher in one sitting. This child sat down with Daisy and read a whole chapter, Bacon says. "I feel lucky to be able to share such wonderful dogs with my Annapolis community and meet new people in the process."

"Tail Waggin' Tutors is a great program," adds Shirley Lord, library associate at the Eastport-Annapolis Neck Branch Library. "Parents have told me that their children get really excited about the program. They look forward to it and talk about it for weeks. It's so fun to see the kids interact with the dogs, and it's great to see struggling readers become more confident."

Animals enrich children's lives in many ways. They love unconditionally, ease loneliness, and don't judge. The simple act of petting an animal brings a great sense of comfort. If your child has a disability or faces a challenge that seems insurmountable, pet therapy may be the solution.

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