Tail Waggin Tutors
Lulu, a certified therapy dog, listens as a child reads aloud at the Broadmoor branch of Shreve Memorial Library.
Saturday afternoon visitors to the Broadmoor branch of Shreve Memorial Library may receive a surprise when a pair of four-legged, fur-covered therapists trots into the room.
Lulu and Simba, certified therapy dogs, are a fairly recent addition to the library, beginning their weekly visits as Tail Waggin' Tutors in the autumn of 2013. They greet the children and parents who join them, calmly absorb their pats, and settle down while the children pick books and start to read aloud.
Some children are happy to simply read to a non-critical audience that does not try to correct or help the way a classmate might. Other children soothe themselves by patting on the tutor dogs’ well-groomed coats, said Beverly Barton, Lulu's owner.
Lulu, a King Charles Spaniel, started on her journey to certification with Therapy Dogs International when Barton took her to the Red River Training Club for obedience classes. Her calm but friendly personality fits in well with both beginning readers and older or hospitalized people. That's unusual, Barton said; most dogs are likely to do well with either children or older adults, but not both. Nor are most dogs able to become therapy dogs. Of Barton's five canine family members, only Lulu has the personality for therapy work.
A change is coming to the library therapy dog program. Simba's owners are moving out of the area, and so is Simba. A replacement therapy dog is in the evaluation process, but no official successor has been announced.
There are about 20 certified therapy dogs in Shreveport, Barton said. Among the various places they visit are the Alzheimer's unit in assisted living facility Emeritus at Shreveport, the CHRISTUS Shumpert Cancer Treatment Center, the Willis-Knighton South Center for Pediatrics, and Highland Hospital in general.
By Lani Duke