Reading to the dog at Avalon Library

Butterscotch, a certified therapy dog, gets a first sniff at some of the books children would read to her at Avalon Library last Saturday. Library director Raina Sullivan (left) and “Butter”’s handler, Maggie Dobbins picked some choice books that the dog and the kids might enjoy. Photo by Nancy Whyte for The Citizen

By NANCY WHYTE

Last Saturday at Avalon Library, young readers had the opportunity to read aloud to a therapy dog. Butterscotch, a trained therapy dog, along with her handler Maggie Dobbins, visited the library’s children’s room, where a number of children petted “Butters” and read a favorite book to her.

Reading aloud to a dog can be particularly beneficial to struggling readers, said library director Rania Sullivan. Dogs never correct a “wrong” word or get frustrated while listening. Therapy dogs like Butters are patient and enjoy spending time with people and seem to like hearing the stories.

Butters has been certified by International Therapy Dogs. Two years ago, Dobbins had Butters, then 7-years-old, evaluated by the organization. Placid Butters passed the temperament evaluation and the other requirements necessary for certification. At the time, Butters, working as a therapy dog, helped Dobbins achieve a goal in Girl Scouts. Now Butters is assisting Dobbins, a 16-year-old sophomore at Quaker Valley High School, complete the requirements of her graduation project.

In addition to visiting libraries to encourage reading, Butters has traveled to nursing homes and other sites. She enjoys the attention and particularly likes having her soft and very-long fur petted. Dobbins said that soon Butters will have her spring “lamb” haircut, during which she’ll lose about five pounds.

When not visiting sites as a therapy dog, Butters enjoys being the “house dog” at their Sewickley residence. Maggie’s dad, Craig, said “We are very blessed to have her as our family dog.”

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