Brady, therapy dog 2Here’s a winning recipe: Add 1 dog, 1 handler, 1 child, and 1 book. Mix in a little love, a cupful of attention, and a pinch of encouragement. When allowed to fully bake, you have a happy student with improved reading skills.
Brady is proof the recipe works. For three years, he and his owner/handler Alan Alsop have made a weekly trip to Greenway Park Elementary School in Charlotte where selected students read books to Brady. Since some children have a fear of dogs or an allergy, they must bring permission from a parent to participate.
The reading program, offered by Therapy Dogs International, helps children who are struggling with reading skills or self-confidence by having them read aloud. A dog never judges; therefore, they are perfect for the job as listener. A benefit of the program is the children never feel intimated as they struggle with words. They feel relaxed with their furry friend, and Brady is so chilled out, he usually goes to sleep!
If you assume any dog can be a therapy dog, you are mistaken. Like Brady, they must have special training. They must be able to adapt to a school environment and interact well with children, even the little darlings who want to pull their tail. A therapy dog learns to respond to simple commands. Alan said even Brady almost flunk two requirements, one test involved leaving a treat behind. That had to be hard!
Alan tells me the teachers are as excited as the children to see Brady each week. When Alan puts the special TDI kerchief around Brady’s neck, indicating he is a trained therapy dog, Brady knows it’s time to go to school and work, if you can call it that. Ever since a school staff member called Brady into her office for a treat, Brady looks for the lady and hopes for another one.
As you can imagine, some students ask if Brady can go home with them. Many of the students at the school live in poverty. Sadly, they tell Alan they hope to someday have a dog if and when they have a house. Many live in low-income apartments or even extended-stay hotels where pets are not allowed.
I met Brady over the weekend. He is a beautiful golden retriever, full of energy and love. The children are lucky to have him as a furry friend, and he is lucky to have them. It is a win-win proposition. If you are interested in participating in the program, click on this link for Therapy Dogs International.

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About Susan MIlls Wilson

Susan Mills Wilson is a native of North Carolina where she writes romantic suspense. She is the leader of the Charlotte Writers Club Mystery Critique Group and a member of Charlotte Writers Club. Subscribe to Susan’s blog at
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