Service Dog is Reader’s Best Friend

A classroom full of second-graders disperses, with students finding their own quiet corners to read. But one reader is a little different from the rest — for starters, he’s got fur and four paws.

Moose, a 10-year-old golden retriever, is a trained reading-therapy dog, and his visits to Karrlie Carbajal’s class at Hyer Elementary School are often the highlight of the week.

“It helps the students who aren’t as confident about reading out loud,” Carbajal said. “Moose won’t correct them.”

Not only does Moose’s presence boost the confidence of readers looking to bolster their reading skills, but Carbajal has found that it has helped animal-shy students get more comfortable around pets.

“They love it,” she said. “For the kids who were not sure about dogs, they get so excited now.”

Overall, the independent-reading part of class is about 45 minutes. Moose can only hold his attention with one activity for about an hour, anyway.

Moose’s owner, Margaret Reid, adopted him with therapy training in mind. Once that was complete, she touched base with elementary schools around town. In 2014, she contacted Hyer, where her now-grown children once attended school.

“He’ll put his paw on you while you’re reading like he likes you a lot.”
Second-grader Kate Hale

“He’s got the right temperament for it; he’s best suited to children,” Reid said. “All he has to do is lie there.”

Hyer librarian Janet Peters reached out to all the teachers and let them know that Reid and her pup were available for class-time reading. She then held a drawing of teachers’ names — Carbajal and her students have been reaping the benefits ever since.

“He pays attention and he also likes to listen, even though he moves around,” second-grader Katherine Clark said.

Every Tuesday, Moose and Reid stroll in for story time. Only half the class can read to him in one session, though, so students typically read to him one-on-one every other week.

With that structure, students spend no more than five minutes with the dog each session. But that small amount of time is clearly making an impact for students, who love their new furry friend.

“He’ll put his paw on you while you’re reading like he likes you a lot,” second-grader Kate Hale said.

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