reading to dogs

Gloverville students read to shelter animals

AIKEN – Priceless pup looks abounded, and barks subsided as the voices of children reading aloud echoed in the concrete-floored chambers of the Aiken County Animal Shelter April 22.

As one of their many service-learning projects, the 14 children from Gloverville Elementary School’s fourth and fifth grade Beta Club read aloud to Aiken County Animal Shelter dogs as honorary Friends of the Animal Shelter volunteers.

One shelter dog pulled its blanket closer to the kennel door and lay on it to be closer to one of the children as she read-aloud a picture-book. Another licked a child’s book as she narrated its contents.

After the read-aloud session and a while after a puppy was brought around, Trinity Escalante, fourth grader, said, “The best part was petting the puppy and getting to know the puppy.”

Members of Gloverville Elementary School’s Beta Club read to animals at the Aiken Shelter April 22. Ron Baxley Jr./Augusta Good News

“My favorite experience was reading to the dog,” fourth grader Cayden Smith said.

Connor Goggans, fifth grader and vice-president of the Beta Club, said, “I think it is really important that we are helping these animals. These animals might really need the help we are giving them.”

Easton Morris, whose grade was not identified, said it was important for the dogs to see somebody like a kid they had not seen before.

Before the excited children started, Kathy Cagle, FOTAS program coordinator, gave them a safety lecture on not putting their faces directly in a dog’s face near the kennel door and advised them to walk in as quietly as they could.

READ MORE: Take a doggie on a date in Richmond County

Cindie Davidson and Judi Saver, Dog Ears Reading Program Assistants of FOTAS, helped the children get settled and helped instruct them in what to do.

“Some of the dogs we will see today have never seen people. Some will lick through the bars,” said Cagle.

Cagle discussed many topics related to the animal shelter with the children – many of which they may not have known. She used more kid-friendly terms to explain spaying and neutering and why that is necessary. She also brought out a red-tick coonhound and a tame pit bull puppy to interact with the children at various times.

Next, Cagle said the pit bull puppy had been found on the side of the road at three months old.

“It’s really weird for a puppy to be out at this age,” Cagle said.

She asked the children why some people do not keep puppies.

The children said they “pee in the house” or “chew on things”.

Cagle said people sometimes want to get rid of puppies for these reasons.

Given how complex caring for a puppy can be, the shelter has potential adopters take a puppy home for two weeks – a trial adoption.

READ MORE: New space to open at animal shelter

At one point, Cagle asked what the kids thought most people thought of pit-bulls.

“Pit bulls are bullies,” one child answered.

But Cagle countered.

“Our best play dogs are pit-bulls. They are just very noisy,” she said.

Fourth grader Trinity Escalante, with assistance from her friend, reads from a book to a shelter dog at the Aiken County Animal Shelter on Saturday. Fourth grader Cayden Smith (far back) waits for a dog to come back to the kennel door. Ron Baxley Jr./Augusta Good News

Cagle also did a question and answer session about what the children learned. Some of the children answered that “dogs mimic your energy” and “pit bulls are not all that bad.” Many raised their hands they would work on and encourage adoption of animals in the shelter.

She asked the kids to name a puppy for the shelter, and they suggested several names, including Bruce, Phoenix, Jiffy and Spike among others. Cagle told them they were going to ask the school to write a list of potential puppy names for the puppies coming into the shelter.

“Graniteville Elementary School did this when they volunteered with us,” she said.

Gloverville Elementary School has had several service-learning activities related to the shelter.

“The students collected over 200 items to give to the foster parents,” Kathy Snyder, fifth grade teacher and Beta Club co-sponsor, said.

Snyder said the entire school did a contest where they collected food for cats and dogs, the second grade won, and the Beta Club picked the items up and organized them.

The shelter isn’t the only place where they’ve done service-learning events.. During the holidays, they visited PruittHealth-Aiken and made baskets for the patients, according to Terena Corley, fourth grade teacher. They’ve also cleaned up trash in the area.

Cagle said the Aiken County Animal Shelter will have opportunities for reading aloud to dogs available to area children during the summer.

Ron Baxley Jr. is a correspondent for Augusta Good News. He’s also the author of several books inspired by The Wizard of Oz as well as a graphic novel based on his Corgi, Ziggy.

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