Six-year-old Katie is working hard, sounding out words, as she reads a Snoopy book. And she’s not alone. She has a unique reading buddy with a soothing demeanor and a beautiful coat. Her name is Ella and she’s a calm sheltie.
“Children come in and read to the dog to encourage their love and joy for reading because when you read to a dog, they don’t evaluate. They don’t judge, they’re just very happy,” says Lois Huntley, Ella’s owner.
The ten pound canine – who is 8-years-old – is a Reading Education Assistance Dog. She and Huntley volunteer for an organization called Cold Noses, Warm Hearts which trains therapy dogs for a variety of occasions.
“We do hospice volunteer in different facilities and homes. We go to UCONN Avery Point twice a year for final exams where the kids are studying and they can come over pet the dog and take a break,” explains Huntley.
“This is at least my third time reading to Ella,” says 7-year-old Grace O’Brien, who loves the friendship and comfort that a cozy companion provides. “I don’t have a pet at home, so, it makes me happy to see pets when I don’t have one.”
Parents appreciate the fun yet peaceful setting at the Acton Public Library in Old Saybrook.
“RIley likes to read everything. She’s a total book worm which I think is great,” says Alyssa Merrifield of Niantic, as she holds her small daughter on her lap. “We started reading at a very young age with her.”
Ella benefits from the program too.
“She’s pretty sure that she’s a princess and that she deserves all the attention she gets,” says Huntley with a smile.
It’s a warm, giving exchange that revolves around patience, support, learning and love.
“Just feeling that fur, stroking that fur is a calming thing for people,” says Huntley. “It’s a marvelous thing – everyone feels good.”
Ella will be back, sharing her talents at the Acton Public Library on Saturday, March 23rd.
Click here for more information about Cold Noses, Warm Hearts.