TheHumane Society of Missouridog shelter in the US has come up with one of the most original and rewardingideas, and it's called the Shelter Buddies Reading Program.Since December 2015, kids have been making regular visits to the St. Louis shelter where they help comfort the most difficult and shy dogs by reading to them. By creating a calm atmosphere for the dogs, the children improve these dogs' chances ofgetting adopted.
The concept is very simple : the children develop their reading skills sitting oppositedogs who, in turn, learn how torelax in the company of humans.And whilst thekids read to these often traumatised dogs, theydevelop a greater sense of empathy and patience.Jo Klepacki, the program director, explained to the websiteThe Dodo:
We wanted to help our shy and fearful dogs without forcing physical interaction with them to see the positive effect that could have on them.
The reading sessions therefore take place in front of the dog's kennel, so that the dogs still feel protected. They can then relax listening to the children whilst they read them their favourite stories.The program is open to "kind kids" aged from 6 to 15 years old. Oncethey have registered, they then have ten hours of training during which they learn how to reada dog's body language.After the training process, the children cancome back to the shelter whenever they like, accompanied by their parents, to read to the dogs in need.
Ideally, the shy and fearful dogs will approach and show interest. If so, the kids reinforce this behaviour by giving them a treat... They are more likely to get adopted if they are approaching and interacting, rather than hiding in the back or cowering.
So far, this innovative idea has been a success. It hasn't just been helpful for getting shy dogs to come out of their shell, hyperactive dogs have also learned how to relax and calm down through the children's reading sessions."It is incredible, the response we've seen in these dogs.", addedJo Klepacki.
A truly virtuous circle, the children's reading skills are developing as well as their sense of empathy with animals.Jo Klepacki finished by saying:
[The children] are seeing fearfulness in these animals, and seeing the positive affect they can have. This encourages them to look at things from an animal's perspective. That helps them better connect with animals and people in their lives.
The shelter never thought the initiative would be so popular. Local children have been desperate to sign up and start reading to the dogs, with places filling up fast.More and more dogs have been adopted in the past couple of months thanks to the brilliant program.
The charity wants to extend the program to all of its shelters in the US so that hundred of dogs (and cats too) will benefit from the idea.You can donate to theHumane Society of Missourihere, which will go towards fundingtraining schemes so thatmore Buddies Reading sessions can take place all over the US.