Reading to Rosie

Joy Ufford photos Evie, left, and Ella Curry read to the Rosie the therapy dog and handler Peggy Weber during a session at the Pinedale Library.

Library introduces therapy dog team to encourage reading

After hearing about Jackson’s

reading therapy dog program, Pinedale

Children’s Librarian Michelle Humber decided

to test the waters and see if a local dog

owner might volunteer time to create the same

opportunity.

Humber learned that the Teton County Library’s

reading therapy dogs were part of the

Pet Partners community program and hoped to

find a team that might go through the courses

required to become a certified therapy dog and

handler.

“It helps the kids be more comfortable

reading, especially if they are reluctant readers,”

she explained.

Enter Peggy Weber and her 8-year-old border

collie Rosie.

Rosie and her young littermates were literally

rescued from a hard life outdoors just

before their owner was going to shoot them.

A neighbor grabbed them and brought them to

the Animal Care Clinic, where Weber met and

fell in love with the 6-month-old pup.

“I rescued her and she rescued me,” said

Weber, who grew up in California’s Bay Area

and has lived in Pinedale for at least 45 years.

She is retired from Public Health nursing,

Remi Kelly gets help with a new word from handler Peggy Weber while Rosie,

the patient therapy dog, listens.

Joy Ufford photos

Evie, left, and Ella Curry read to the Rosie the therapy dog and handler Peggy Weber during a session at the Pinedale Library.

where she worked with “baby sister” Annie

Sondgeroth.

Weber and Rosie have always been

very active, traveling and going many

places together.

“She’s a working dog that needs to be

busy,” she said of her very friendly and very

smart companion. “She has always been very

healthy and just a good dog.”

Last spring, when Weber heard about

Humber’s search for a reading therapy dog,

she considered volunteering herself and Rosie.

“I was interested in doing that because

Rosie likes kids and she is really smart,”

Weber said. “She is so smart; she needs to use

her brain.”

Another sister, Pat Hull, has trained service

dogs for many years and encouraged her to

check out the Pet Partners program.

Pet Partners is a nationwide standardized

training program that helps animal owners

first determine if their pets might make good

therapy animals – which might be parrots,

rabbits, guinea pigs, llamas, alpacas, horses

or mini-horses, even cats – but most are dogs.

The goal is to train animal and handler

teams to be comfortable and calm with all

kinds of people and situations. Pet Partners offers

certifications on a number of levels, from

going to libraries, nursing homes and hospitals

to crisis and disaster support to helping

veterans and Alzheimer’s patients.

Weber remembers a therapy dog visiting

while she was in the hospital and how much

it meant to her.

“I want people to see that most dogs have

talents one way or another and encourage

someone else to have their dogs be therapy

dogs.”

Weber contacted Teton County Pet Partners

to see if being a therapy team was a

good fit for her and Rosie. Once committed,

she took seven online courses that emphasize

“handler” training over pet training and then

took a dog handler course in Jackson.

The neighborhood kids also helped Rosie

prepare by walking her, playing with her and

reading to her in the yard all summer. Both

Rosie and Weber need to be confident and

consistent during their one-hour sessions with

young readers.

Peggy Weber and Rosie the

reading therapy dog come to

the Pinedale Library Children’s

Reading Room on Mondays,

11 a.m. to noon, and Thursdays,

4 to 5 p.m., when the

library is open. Sign up for a

15-minute reading time there

or call 307-367-4114.

For the course, Rosie had a veterinarian’s

health checkup and Weber, a background

check. They passed with flying colors. Rosie

is groomed and her nails trimmed before each

visit.

At their debut Thursday, Nov. 7, the two

went into the Children’s Reading Room with

its colorful rug and posters to await kids that

signed up to read aloud.

Rosie greeted each youngster enthusiastically

and Weber perched on a small chair

while young readers shared their books with

Rosie. Weber helped out with the occasional

word and marveled at the kids’ ability to read.

It was a new experience that Weber is going

to modify only slightly – “I think I’ll sit on the

floor too next time.”

“I’m learning and Rosie is learning,” Weber

said of the experience. “We’re just excited –

life is about doing service for people. I don’t

know if I have a gift but Rosie has a gift.”

Their Pet Partners certification and Rosie’s

new badge let them go to libraries, airports,

hospitals, assisted living, nursing homes and

even school if a student is stressed about taking

a test and needs some cuddly support.

Watching the kids relate to Rosie and her to

them really meant a lot to Weber. “It was so

joyful to hear them read to her. It was a pure

joy.”

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