Dog owners are responsible for making sure their dogs go for a walk at least once a day, are properly fed, and receive medical attention. Unfortunately, many people who assume the responsibility associated with owning a pet aren’t able to live up to the challenge, and their animals end up in shelters for adoption.
But the spirits of the dogs at the Humane Society of Missouri will be significantly lifted when children practice reading to timid shelter dogs, in an attempt to socialize them, through a new program called Shelter Buddies Reading Program.
The chance is beneficial to both parties: kids get to read to a totally non-judgmental audience, while the dogs are acclimatized to the presence of humans.
JoEllyn Klepacki, the assistant director of education at the Society, told ABC News that there were two reasons for starting the program.
“Dogs in a shelter environment exhibit a lot of signs of anxiety and show stress signals,” Klepacki explained, “so we wanted to do something to comfort them, and we have a lot of children in our area who are really engaged and they ask, ‘How can I help? How can I make a difference?”
The children, ranging in ages from six to 15, go through a 10-hour training program about how to interact with dogs. The children sit in front of the dog’s kennels so as not to overwhelm them, and the dogs get a treat every time they approach the children.
The reading program is offered once a month, at the state’s humane society’s headquarters in St. Louis.
“These dogs, if you had seen them before the kids sat down, these were the dogs who would stay at the back of their kennel, scared,” said Klepacki. “The goal is to get the dog to come to the front of the kennel by the time they finish their book, or a few books.”