Dogs, man’s best friends, have been helping humans for centuries. And it seems there is no end to their talents: herding, hunting, police work – just to name a few. Increasingly, the therapeutic aspects of dog ownership have come to light. And now there are certified therapy dogs that have mastered certain obedience commands and help to calm stressful situations outside the home. Kiva is a certified therapy dog living right here in Merrill and she will begin making weekly visits to the T.B. Scott Free Library starting Tuesday, June 13, as part of the Summer Library Reading Program line-up.
Why the library, you ask? Because that’s where the kids are in summer in Merrill. Last summer 408 children signed up for the Library’s Summer Reading Program. And while for the majority of these children reading is a fun thing to do, for some of them it is a struggle. Here’s where dogs like Kiva and her handler Mark can help turn a tense time into a dog gone great time. The excitement of being able to read to a wonderful dog like Kiva helps a child look forward to coming to the library to read. With Kiva nestling in next to the child and listening to the child read in a non-judgmental way, a child who is anxious about reading out loud finds a fast friend who is bent on their every word and gives an approving wag of the tail too! Reading becomes fun and fluid!
“I have witnessed the transformation a reading therapy dog can make in the life of a child and have had parents say that after trying everything that they could think of to help their struggling reader, that it was the therapy dog that created a space for success,” said Carolyn Forde, T.B. Scott Library Youth Services Librarian.
Mark Mehlos, Kiva’s owner, has seen it too. When Mark got Kiva as a puppy he could tell that Kiva had special gifts. At the time he was volunteering with people that were struggling with their health and well-being. He began to share Kiva with these struggling souls and saw the way Kiva was able to comfort them. That’s when Mark decided to pursue therapy dog training for Kiva and certification through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. He wanted to bring a smile and joy to those in need.
Mark and Kiva would love to listen to your young reader this summer. You can sign your child up to read for a 15-minute time slot each week beginning Tuesday, June 13, at 11 a.m. Just call the library at 715-536-7191.
And while you’re at it, make certain your child signs up for the Summer Library Reading program to prevent that summer slide. Studies show that reading just six books over the summer helps children maintain their reading skill set. And Kiva, that Tail Waggin’ Tutor, will make certain that along with their skill set they’ll be readin’ and smilin’!