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Porsche the Therapy Dog helps kids become better readers

Published: Friday, July 12, 2013 11:26 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 12, 2013 12:36 p.m. CDT
(Ty Rushing/Newton Daily News)
Hailey Sumpter poses Porsche the Therapy Dog in the Newton Public Library's children section. Kids can come read to Porsche every Wednesday from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Just about every Wednesday, Hailey Sumpter comes to the Newton Public Library and reads to Porsche the Therapy Dog. Both Sumpter, who is an incoming Thomas Jefferson second-grader, and Porsche seem to love the tradition.

“Anytime we come, she mostly licks me and is mostly excited,” Sumpter said while receiving some affection from Porsche.

Lisa Gibbons is Porsche’s handler, and together they went through the Therapy Dogs International program. TDI is an organization that is dedicated to regulating, testing, and registering therapy dogs and their handlers.

TDI dogs visit a number of places and the visits to the library and elementary schools falls under its “Tail Wagging Tutors” program. The main objective of the program is to provide a relaxed and “dog-friendly” atmosphere for children to practice reading.

“She basically just comes and listens to kids read. It’s a special treat for them,” Gibbons said. “It gives them a little encouragement. They are not afraid to make mistakes and the dogs not going to judge them. It just makes reading fun.”

Porsche is a rescued pit bull who is incredibly social and friendly. In addition to helping young readers out, Gibbons feels that showcasing a pit bull in this light can help the breeds’ bad reputation.

“With pit bull types of dogs getting a bad reputation unfortunately, this is good advertisement to show this is what most of them are (like),” Gibbons said. “They’re just like her. That’s another reason to do it, to be a good advocate.”

Gibbons hopes for Porsche seem to be true, as children anxiously awaited their turn to read to her on Wednesday. The sessions last from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the children’s section of the library and Gibbons said they average around three or four readers a week.

“She just loves it, she absolutely loves kids,” Gibbons said. “She does nursing homes too. But kids are her specialty and she loves them—a lot. She can’t hold her tongue in. With socializing her, we realized that she loves going places, she loves people and we just taught she would make a really good therapy dog.”

Porsche’s impact on kids can be seen. Sumpter was reading “Alphabet Rescue” to her most recently and last Wednesday read her a joke book.  She said Porsche even brought her some “Biscuit the Dog” books and that she had already read two of them.

“(The visits) pretty much make me a better reader,” Sumpter said. “I’m learning how to read chapter books. She falls asleep after awhile. Once I’m getting through the second book, she’s usually asleep.”

Read with Porsche the Therapy Dog is offered every Wednesday at the Newton Public Library from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.  For more information, Youth Services Librarian Phyllis Peters may be contacted at (641) 792-4108.

For information on becoming a TDI handler visit: www.tdi-dog.org

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641)-792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com