Pooch helps Eagle County kids read | VailDaily.com
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Pooch helps Eagle County kids read

Matt Terrell
mterrell@vaildaily.com
Edwards, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyEagle County Charter Academy third-grader Charlie Morrows, right, reads to canine Moose while his classmate Jake Dippy pets the dog Thursday at school in Edwards, Colorado.
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EDWARDS, Colorado ” Moose, a four-year-old English Labrador retriever, has become a connoisseur of children’s books in Edwards, C0lorado.

Students at Eagle County Charter Academy take turns reading to him on Thursdays. There are moments when Moose appears to be following along and looking at the illustrations, but mostly, he lounges, yawns, licks, stretches, wags his tail, cuddles up next to the kids and looks especially happy when petted.

Having a trained dog in a reading classroom is actually very helpful for the kids, says Elizabeth Dekanich, a reading specialist at the school.



Moose has a calming effect on students and allows them to loosen up when they’re having trouble reading a passage.

“When they read it to me, they have a little more anxiety,” Dekanich said. “With a dog, there’s no criticism or judgment, and no laughter if the child makes a mistake.”



Moose is a reading certified dog with the “Wagging Tales” program run by the Vail Valley Pet Partners. It’s his job to basically be a kid’s reading buddy, and he’s just one way the Charter Academy is giving extra help to students who are having difficulties reading.

Students who piloted the program last year showed big improvements. “They practice a passage all week that they’re going to read to Moose, and they want it to be good for him,” Dekanich said.

Rita Skelton is Moose’s owner and comes by once a week. She said reading dogs like Moose have to have a pretty even temperament to be certified. They must pass a demanding obedience test, and they also have to demonstrate that they can handle being in a classroom with lots of kids.



A reading dog must enjoy being petted and can’t lose control when they see toys or food.

“It has to be a calm, gentle dog that likes to be around kids,” Skelton said.

Pet Partners is an international organization that trains a wide variety of therapy animals, from dogs to chickens, to visit people in schools, rehab centers, hospitals and nursing homes.

For more information on the Delta Society Pet Partners, visit http://www.deltasociety.org. To learn more about the Vail chapter of the program, contact co-founder Sally Clair at sally@airclair.org.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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