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and she welcomed them.” So Dolly went into training as a Reading Education Assistance Dog (READ). A child reads to the dog, one-on-one, outside the class-

room. “A poor reader often feels self-conscious reading aloud in class,” Maar explained. “She makes mistakes and the other children ridicule her. Just reading aloud to the dog, the child is more relaxed and more accurate, resulting in better learning.” Shelby, a Boston terrier, is a READ dog too. Charlotte Smith, Carrollton, Texas, is his owner and teammate. Smith believes Shelby and other therapy animals are intuitive: “They are somehow in tune with the people they touch.”

Smith recounts Shelby’s encounter with an autistic first-grader: “The boy could not make eye contact with people and was afraid of animals, dogs especially. When other kids took turns reading to Shelby, the teacher had to take this boy into another room. On his own, the boy decided that he wanted to read to Shelby. The boy ran into the room and then slid on his belly until he was face to face with Shelby. The two made eye contact for what seemed like minutes. Shelby stayed steady, looking deeply into the boy’s eyes.”

Shelby also works at the Denton County Advocacy

Center, north of Dallas. He is a soothing presence for girls, ages 6 to 18, who have experienced abuse. Smith said one girl who was petrified of dogs screamed and almost climbed on top of her chair. “Shelby knew he should hold back,” she said. “He just smelled her hand, nothing more.” Some dogs are spooked by wheelchairs—not Shelby. At church Shelby approached a mentally disabled woman in a wheelchair and jumped into her lap to greet her. The woman responded with delight. “He knows when to approach and when to wait,” Smith said. “The church members are supportive,” she added. “They realize this is more than bringing dogs to worship. They are allowing the dogs to practice socializing in order to do their work in the community .... By petting and greeting the animals, they are helping.” Hubbard agrees: “The dogs have a soothing effect on worshipers. People take pleasure in them as we take plea- sure in creation. Even in church we are helping further the animals’ socialization. Having the animals present stimulates our wonderment for God’s creation, and our members are so tickled to have them. It is one of the best things we do.” 

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