WAXAHACHIE

Saturday morning was no ordinary reading session at Nicholas P. Sims Library.

Children were seen reading to therapy dogs, while parents photographed selfies with other pooches. And it happens on the second Saturday of each month.

For the past 10 years, Tail-Waggin' Tutors has taken place at the Waxahachie library to help young ones hone in on literacy or provide a unique experience.

Judy Werner, a Cedar Hill resident, handled her Great Pyrenees mix, Teddy, in the children’s section of the library. In the three years of ownership, Teddy was once trained in Johnson County at a battered children’s center. At that time, Werner came to find out that Teddy broke barriers with children who experienced trauma or were treated poorly.

She elaborated on the benefits of a person’s interaction with a dog in an educational setting. She learned kids in these situations do not communicate well with others. Once the dog was introduced to that individual, a sense of comfort allowed the individual to talk at a higher level with the animal.

Werner then recalled a visit at a Dallas library with non-English speakers. She found those individuals were drawn to the dogs because the language barrier was eliminated.

“I think the communication that day was better than ever and it was so great,” Werner recalled.

Werner is in her third year with the Dog Training Club of Dallas County. She rescued Teddy about three years ago and after her husband had already rescued a young pup that underwent training with the club. That’s how Werner was introduced to ways Teddy could be of service.

“It’s a loosely held group, but we have rules and regulations,” Werner elaborated. “You can’t join unless other people — we vote on each other. So you have to take a couple classes first because we have to see how you treat your dog when he doesn’t do what you want him to do.”

Once Werner finished her explanation, eight-year-old Elizabeth Barker sat down and began to read to Teddy out loud. The child politely requested for Teddy to sit down with her, and within two commands the happy pup obliged.

Werner and Teddy stay busy on Saturdays as they travel to several libraries, hospitals and assisted living homes around the area. She explained she would go anywhere a person benefits from petting and loving on the dog.

Barker continued to read to Teddy as she petted him.

Werner agreed the experience is rewarding. “Just to see the kids’ faces light up when they see this guy.”

This was the first time for Barker to participate in Tail-Waggin' Tutors and agreed the time spent advancing her reading skills and bonding with the fluffy white dog was fun. As Barker left, she said goodbye to the other therapy dog, Mr. Magoo, who is also blind.

The owner of Mr. Magoo, Lynda Holman is a Midlothian resident and said she has participated with Tail-Waggin' Tutors since 2012. Holman is with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and is also a founding member of Dog Training Club of Dallas County, which has existed since 1974. Holman holds a lifetime membership position as a corporate director of the nonprofit.

“Dogs are my passion and doing the therapy dog work is just icing on the cake,” Holman expressed while she handled her 8-year-old Labrador Retriever mix.

She attended the Dallas Obedience Training beginner class and befriended several classmates and the instructor decades ago. Together they established DTCDC to serve the southwest Dallas area.

Holman shared that Mr. Magoo has helped several children with his service. One child had dyslexia and found it easier to read to a dog since it was more patient. Expectations were eliminated as well as other stresses and nerves.

“I have found when some of the kids have issues or problems they are more than willing to read to a dog," Holman explained. "They don’t feel intimidated to have a chance to practice their reading.”

She shared a story about a child who consistently visited the Sims Library Tail-Waggin' Tutors. The parent of the child confided in Holman and explained the assistance was extremely beneficial to her daughter.

“Before she started reading to the dogs, she wouldn’t even read out loud to us — the parents — and she certainly wouldn’t read out loud at school,” Holman explained.

After many months of practice, the young girl developed the confidence to present a report to her classmates without one stumble.

Tail Waggin' Tutors takes place at Nicholas P. Sims Library every second Saturday from 12—1 p.m. The library is located at 515 W. Main St.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450