About The Foster Zoo

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We have decided to blog our adventures again. So much has changed since we last blogged. Bella and Shiloh both went to their forever homes and they are in wonderful families. June Bug got adopted. We quit fostering dogs after those adoptions because Tanker's epilepsy got bad. We quit doing therapy dog work because Tanker's epilepsy got bad. Tanker passed away June 9th, 2013. We adopted a senior border collie named Shania Tankerbelle in his memory. We still have our two cats, Sweet Pea and Little Bit. Wes has started rescuing pitiful bettas from Wal-Mart and we currently have seven. We have a camper. We camp. We have focused on giving our animals the best lives possible. We are The Foster Zoo Crew and we like to have fun.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

PAWS for Reading Practice

 One of the programs that Tanker and Wes, and Topher and I will be volunteering in as Therapy Dog teams is the PAWS for Reading Program in the schools.  This is a really neat program and unique.  Therapy dogs go into the schools to help children who struggle with reading.  Who better to read to than a dog?  Dogs will not judge you for missing a word.  Dogs will not judge you for talking funny.  Dogs will not judge you if you cannot master reading at all.

This sounds like a simple training task, right?  Well, really it is not.  It takes a dog who is patient and is obedient enough to follow out commands throughout the entire book without distracting the child.  Not all dogs are suitable for this program.  Some dogs just want to work and are not patient enough just to be there for the child.  I am lucky enough to have an AWESOME mentor!  She has the most amazing therapy dogs.  As you have read in my previous posts, her dogs work with special needs kids, specifically the difficult ones in the mentally disturbed classes with autism, aspergers, etc.  Her dog not only does a lot of therapy work with these kids, he is also a great read dog.  When I shadowed her, I was able to learn a lot of new tricks to teach my dogs to help them engage with the child who is reading.  Yesterday was my first day of trying  our dogs out on a little boy with special needs.

My very good friend has a son who has a speech impediment from seizures as a young child.  He is one of the boys we worked with in the school the other day when I shadowed my mentor.  He is not crazy about dogs, but he loves Titus, Tanker, and Topher.  Wes and I took our dogs down to his house yesterday to work on reading.

I brought lots of treats with me.  I thought that starting off with new commands that I would be needing to treat Topher quite a bit until he really got used to it.  I assumed the same was true with Wes and Tanker as well.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  The first book that J (I will name the boy J for privacy purposes.) read to Topher and Tanker was not as successful as I hoped.  Topher would down, stay, put his head on J's leg, get up, turn around, wait for a command, etc.  This is what I figured out.  Because Topher is very smart he is very obedient and eager to learn.  Because I had treats in my pocket, he would do all he could to offer me new behaviors for a treat.  He figured out that if he got up, I made him down and stay, he got a treat, so he did it again and again and again.  I figured this out and the treats went bye bye.  Once the treats were gone, Topher was the best reading therapy dog a boy could ask for.  He downed next to the boy.  He cuddled his head in his lap.  He engaged and looked at pictures that the boy showed him.  He even got so interested in the book he once layed his head right down in the middle of the pages and looked up at J like "this is really neat.  Thanks for reading to me."  Everybody got a laugh out of that.  Tanker layed on the other side of J, so that J had two reading dogs on either side.  Tanker did not engage as much as Topher did.  Wes has not had as much time to work with Tanker and he did not have the opportunity to shadow like I did to learn the ropes.  Tanker was really good though.  J read one book, petted the dogs, got excited and went to get another book, read, petted the dogs, got excited and got another book....this went on until we read 5 BOOKS!!!  It was a really neat experience

This activity last night filled our hearts with joy.  Looking across at Wes watching J read and helping him with Tanker while he had a smile on his face filled my heart with joy.  It was the neatest experience that our dogs made a little boy EXCITED to read!  We are excited to get in the schools very soon to help other children read.

For privacy purposes, I do not have a picture to add this time.  I wish I did though.  You all would have loved to see Tanker and Topher laying with J, Topher's head on J's lap, contently listening to books about volcanos, action figures, legos, and little boy stuff.

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