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Lending a paw for literacy
Therapy dogs visit local library
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Timmy, a four-and-a-half-year-old Bichon Frise, has been a registered therapy dog for the past two years. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Once a month the Dawson County Library opens its doors for a few furry friends who like to lend a paw to young readers.

On the third Tuesday of each month, members of CAREing Paws spend time hanging out in the library and listening to children read them stories.

CAREing Paws, an animal therapy group in middle and north Georgia, in conjunction with the national Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) program of Intermountain Therapy Animals, helps children foster a love of reading.

Timmy, a four-and-a-half-year-old Bichon Frise, is partial to cuddling up on the bean bags in the kids’ corner as he waits for children to sit down and read with him.

“He loves the bean bag. I keep saying I’m going to get him one,” said his owner, Jeanette Mann, laughing.

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Timmy, a therapy dog from CAREing Paws, waits on a bean bag chair for kids to come read to him at the Dawson County Library. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Named after singer Tiny Tim, little Timmy was the smallest of the four pups in the litter. Mann’s son picked out the hypoallergenic pooch and since then, countless people have fallen in love with the fluffy, white pup.

“Kids love him. Everybody loves him,” said Mann of her inspiration to get Timmy registered. “Just like people, dogs have certain skills and you just have to figure out what’s best.”

And what works best for Timmy is helping others in the community.

Mann, who is passionate about promoting literacy, hopes she and Timmy can help spread the joy of reading to others.

“My son could read at a very early age and he’s very gifted now and I attribute it to that foundation in reading. It’s got to be,” said Mann. “He can speed read things and he’s way ahead of the game.”

Mann and Timmy have been a READ team for a year and a half and trying to get the kids to want to read on their own is something they work hard to achieve every visit.

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Frankie, a 12-year-old husky/lab mix, has been a therapy dog for ten years and loves coming to the library and being read to by kids. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Frankie, a 12-year-old Husky/Lab mix, has been a therapy dog for 10 years and has helped show Timmy the ropes.

“As soon as I get home when I pick up the bandana and leash because she only wears that when I take her on therapy visits she’s just ‘boing, boing, boing,’” said Frankie’s owner, Anne Converse.

Frankie was adopted from the Lumpkin County shelter when she was three months old. Converse was taken with the sweet pup and loved her bright blue eyes. So much so, that she named Frankie after Frank Sinatra who was known for his baby blues.

Converse, who had a therapy Doberman prior to Frankie, was excited to learn about the READ program and knew it would be a great fit for her.

“I always liked to read. I couldn’t imagine why people don’t like to read,” said Converse. “It gives kids a chance to practice out of school especially in the summer.”

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Anne Converse with her dog, Frankie, and Jeanette Mann with her dog, Timmy, are part of CAREing Paws and help children gain confidence and find joy in reading. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Both Mann and Converse have seen the positive impact their special four-legged companions have had on children in the community.

“Dogs are nonjudgmental. They’re not going to correct you… so it’s a very relaxed environment,” said Converse. “We try to help them without interfering or correcting like ‘what do you think Frankie thinks that word is?’”

Converse wants kids to have a good experience and be able to relax and practice reading with the dogs, even encouraging them to read to their own dogs at home.

The next Reading to Dogs event will begin at 5:45 p.m. March 20 at the Dawson County Library located at 342 Allen Street. Those interested in signing up for a reading time slot are asked to register at the library.

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Timmy, who has been a therapy dog for the past two years, waits for kids to come read to him. - photo by Jessica Taylor

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