Puyallup: News

Therapy dog helps kids brush up on reading aloud

Walking in to the children’s section of the Puyallup Public Library, the faint thump of Clover the Dalmatian’s tail becomes audible. As a child sits on the bench next to handler Karen Wissinger, Clover, a therapy dog, provides a set of non-critical listening ears to kids as the read aloud.

The 9-year-old dog is a K-9 of many talents. As a retired American Kennel Club champion, Clover is more than a set of listening ears and a soft fur coat. She absolutely loves people, and runs to greet anybody she comes in to contact with.

“We’re a magnet,” Wissinger said Saturday during the duo’s hour visit to the library. “The minute anybody sees her, they are drawn to her. They want to rush over and pet her.”

Six years ago, Wissinger registered Clover with Therapy Dogs International, and ever since the duo has come to the library as often as Wissinger’s schedule allows for the Reading with a Doggie Friend program.

For sisters Reyanna Thompkins and Calianna Robles, their mom Imani Thompkins says the program provides her children with a safe and quiet place to interact with a dog.

“I think it’s awesome,” Thompkins said. “They haven’t seen a Dalmatian before, so they love it.”

“When she lays down, I really like to pet her,” Reyanna said of her time with Clover.

Not only does Clover provide children with an opportunity to interact with a dog in a safe environment, the program is designed to help children to improve their reading.

“It relaxes the kids,” said Bonnie Anderson, youth services librarian. “When they are relaxed, it helps them to read better.”

For children such as 7-year-old Noelani Sasa, an already avid reader, the program still provides a chance for her to get more reading practice in.

Sasa read “Lily’s Chocolate Heart” to Clover.

“It was good,” she said of her experience.

“She just really likes to read,” said Sasa’s uncle, Jacques Smith. “It encourages kids to come to the library and read more.”

While the program leaves children happy and more confident with their reading abilities, Clover enjoys the experience just as much.

“Clover is so happy,” Wissinger said. “I really feel like she enjoys it. She gets out and sees people. As she’s entering the library, her tail is wagging she is just so happy. It really enriches her life.”

Clover and Wissinger are at the Puyallup Public Library approximately once a month. For the next Reading with a Doggie Friend date or for more information, visit cityofpuyallup.org/library/index.php.