by Lee Juslin
Frankie is a mixed breed with a lot of Jack Russell characteristics or, as Olga says when asked Frankie’s breed, “My Frankie is one of a kind.”Adopted from the New Leash on Life program where prisoners train dogs provided by the county animal shelter in the hopes of getting them a second chance at a home, Frankie had already passed the test for her CGC (Canine Good Citizen), but Olga continued with basic obedience training as well as repeating the CGC test so it would be in her name. Then, after the required training for pet provided therapy and acceptance into Love on a Leash, the two and a half year old Frankie was ready to embark on a career as a therapy dog and, with Olga’s background as a teacher of reading literacy, the pair looked to the Reading Education Assistance Dogs or R.E.A.D. program.
Frankie easily passed the requirements for the R.E.A.D. program and began visiting several local libraries to help students with reading deficiencies. One of their favorite programs involves special needs students at a local library where they visit every third Sat. for two hours. Each student gets fifteen minutes to read to Frankie. Usually it is one student or, if there are siblings in the program, they often read to Frankie together. “It’s such a sweet sight,” Olga said, “to see Frankie interacting with these often very shy students.”
In one of the libraries where they visit, the staff found some old bean bag cushions which they were about to throw out. However, when Frankie spotted them, she claimed them as her own. Now, at each visit Frankie makes a beeline for those bean bags. The students then curl up and cuddle with Frankie on “HER cushions” and happily read aloud to Frankie.
In addition, to the reading programs for children, Olga and Frankie have started a new program for adults at a nursing home that has proven to be very popular. Olga picks out short stories to read to the residents while Frankie makes herself available for pats and cuddles. Some of the residents’ favorite stories involve rescue dogs.
Recently, Olga and Frankie were asked to make a presentation on therapy dogs for a career day program at an area primary school. As a result, they have become the official R.E.A.D team for the second grade at that school.
“Frankie has a wonderful time with the kids there, and one day we had an experience that really brought home to me the importance of therapy dogs. While I was reading to a large group of children, Frankie got up, went over to one little boy and climbed into his lap. She’d never done that before, but I trusted her judgment and so, while the little boy put his arms around Frankie and hugged her tight, I kept on reading. Later, I learned that little boy had recently lost both his parents. Somehow my wonderful Frankie just knew this little boy needed some extra cuddles and attention.”
If you would like to learn more about the R.E.A.D. program, go here: READ
To learn more about Love on a Leash: L.O.A.L.
If you want to help your dog earn a Canine Good Citizens designation, go here: CGC Test
To learn about the New Leash on Life program go here: NLOL