These Kids Are Reading Dr. Seuss Books To Shelter Dogs

These dogs love Green Eggs and Ham.

A group of kids recently came to the Humane Society of Missouri, to read Dr. Seuss books to the shelter’s dogs.

They were there as part of the Shelter Buddies Reading Program, a program designed to help the dogs become more adoptable (with a side benefit of helping kids become more confident readers).

Kids give the dogs treats and praise, while reading to them. Which in turn gives the dogs “positive reinforcement that encourages the animals to have the courage to approach the kennel front each time a visitor comes through the adoption center,”JoEllyn Klepacki, the shelter’s director of education, tells Shelter Me.

“This is important because animals who approach the kennel front to greet potential adopters get adopted much more quickly than those who don’t.”

The program got started in 2015, while shelter staff was trying to come up with new ways to comfort some dogs rescued out of abusive and neglectful situations.

Some animal-loving kids were at the shelter as part of a week-long camp.

“We decided to try having them read to the dogs because it was a calm activity that provided companionship without direct physical interaction,” Klepacki says.

It was a tremendous success, and Shelter Buddies was born.

Photo credit: Humane Society of Missouri

There are now an astonishing 900 volunteers, who are trained to read to the shelter’s dogs. The readers have special name tags, and are welcome at two shelter locations, seven days a week. A third location is set to be opening in April.

The Humane Society of Missouri is so proud of Shelter Buddies, it’s published a free booklet for other shelters that’d like to start their own reading programs.

“The animals are so happy to have the company and companionship these children provide,” Klepacki says.

It goes both ways. Sometimes the kids get very attached to their canine listeners, and they and their families decide to adopt.

“Oggie — sounds like doggie — is the most recent adoption that comes to mind! There are three sweet Shelter Buddies in this family and they fell in love with one of our shelter dogs while reading to her,” says Klepacki.

Photo credit: Humane Society of Missouri

This week, the dogs were being read Dr. Seuss books, in honor of Read Across America Day (happening on March 2).

Many of the kids wore red and white striped Cat in the Hat hats, for the occasion. The dogs’ ears seemed to really perk up,  Klepacki says, when they heard Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Which, thanks in part to this program, is very likely to be a great home.

 

Arin Greenwood

Arin Greenwood is an animal writer based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Previously, she was animal welfare editor at The Huffington Post. Arin is a former lawyer (J.D. from Columbia Law School, member of the New York Bar), life long animal lover, pit bull advocate, and devoted fan of cats and dogs who run for public office. Her first novel, Tropical Depression -- based on her five-odd, sometimes very odd, years living on a small island near Guam -- was published by teeny indie publisher Back Porch Books in 2011. Her second book, a comic young adult mystery called Save The Enemy, was published by Soho Teen in November 2013. Hello From Dog Island!, Arin's third book, will be published by Soho Teen in 2018. Know a shelter with a great, innovative program? Have another animal story to share? Get in touch at aringreenwood@gmail.com!