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Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - Sunday, May 4, 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company


Students love to READ At Lovelady
Houston County Courier - May 2008

Reading has never been more fun at Lovelady Elementary School than with a special canine guest, Mercy the Bichon Frise. 

Weekly, she and her handler Rosie Welch visit the school and for about 20 minutes, each student enjoys reading one on one to Mercy the Therapy dog.  

This special canine and handler are part of Huntsville Pets Helping People (HPHP) and Delta Society Pet Partners Affiliate and READ group.

Each READ team is a registered Delta Society Pet Partner.  The handler and dog participate in training and evaluations to insure that the team has the ability to participate in animal-assisted activities. 

As a registered Pet Partner, Delta provides a $1,000,000 liability policy in the unlikely occurrence of an accident. 

Reading Specialist Lisa Shearer and Lovelady Elementary School Principal Debbie Harrilson select the students, along with their teachers, that would benefit most from reading with a non-judgmental listener. 

The first book read by a student is one of the “Boomer” series, stories about a Golden Retriever.

The child is given a “Boomer” stuffed animal along with an adoption pledge that they will read to their “Boomer” every day.

Each student also receives a bookmark with a photo of the READ dog. Each week the student selects a book from the 10-15 that are provided by HPHP then reads aloud to the dog. The animal theme books are age and grade appropriate. 

After completing 10 weeks the student can select a book to keep that is signed with a pawgraph and a picture with the dog.

Reading Ms. Shearer says, “Students are so excited to read with Mercy.  We wish we had more pets to go around. Everyone wants a dog to read with.  The children that have participated in the program have had a very positive experience."

Mercy has been visiting Lovelady Elementary School for the past eight weeks and is becoming a familiar face.  She is greeted by teachers, parents and students with a friendly hello and returns the greeting with a little happy dance.  She considers the visits with the children a very special treat. 

She also plans to participate with Lovelady students on read day and take the time to meet and greet even more students.

As a registered Pet Partner Mercy also visits nursing homes and hospitals. Currently she visits Avalon in Trinity and has many friends there. 

Mercy enjoys her life as a therapy dog and encourages the children with her sweet and loving personality.

In total there are more than nine registered READ Teams with HPHP assigned to area schools. 

HPHP offers workshops, pet partner, and canine good citizen testing. 

The AKC Safety Around Dogs program is also offered to area schools and organizations.  For additional information about the organization visit their website at www.petshelpingpeopl.com.

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