In May, Emmett and I passed our test to become registered members of the Delta Society. We trained for almost nine months to prepare for the test and to prepare working as a therapy dog/handler team. Since we passed our test, we’ve participated in several different types of activities as volunteers, but the program Emmett seems to like best is the library program called ARF (Animal Reading Friends).
Two Saturdays a month, we visit the local public libraries where Emmett spends a couple hours being read to. They pull up a beanbag and rub his belly or scratch behind his ears while they read him short picture books, usually about dogs. Emmett loves the attention and is a total natural at getting the kids to smile, to giggle a little, and to feel comfortable. We’ve encountered so many different kids – outgoing kids, timid and shy kids, kids with special needs, and kids who come solely because they love reading so much they look for any opportunity to get to the library.
Some of the kids are repeats, coming back week after week, collecting the bookmarks we had out with the dogs’ pictures on them. One little girl in particular attends religiously. She loves dogs, she tells me, in fact, she’s going to be a vet when she grows up, and she has cats, but her apartment doesn’t allow dogs, so she comes to ARF to spend time with dogs. She pulls a treat-filled plastic container out of her little pink pocketbook, and doles them out to Emmett throughout her visit. He adores her, of course.
One little boy selects a Biscuit book each week. He sits as far away from me but as close to Emmett as he can. He cracks open the book and reads Biscuit’s latest adventure in the tiniest, softest whisper – so soft, in fact, that I can’t hear anything he says except for the occasional “woof woof.” But he rubs Emmett’s ear the entire time.
Another little boy sang B-I-N-G-O to Emmett, who wagged furiously the entire time. One outgoing girl asked me, “How come Emmett’s so cute?” Such a sweet, innocent little question, but a question that, I have to admit, I totally blanked on how to answer…. but her mom jumped in and wisely said, “Well, it’s because he had a cute mommy and a cute daddy.” Perfect.
This morning very few children stopped by the library, probably because it’s a little cold and rainy and there’s football on TV. But the kids who came showered Emmett with attention, demanding “high fives” and asking questions about his fur, his ears, his curly tail, and does he like kitties?
Each week he makes me so darn proud because Emmett consistently performs better than I expect. He zeroes in on the kids who are shy, who hang off to the side afraid to approach, and he walks right up to them wagging his tail. As each child reads, he stares straight into their faces or lays with his head resting on their feet. He makes each child feel special and liked and sometimes even loved. “He kissed me!” a girl squealed this morning, after Emmett licked her nose. “That means he loves me, and I love him!”