Lani the Reading Dog offers a safe place for new readers

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Lani the Reading Dog listens to children read in the library OMPS | Jane BoursawPhoto

(Editor’s Note: OMPS Barb Wunsch writes about Lani, the reading dog who holds a special place in the hearts of all new readers to OMPS and the Peninsula Community Library. As Barb notes below, it is truly magical to watch the children read to Lani, who is so patient, loving and calm, even in a room full of active preschoolers. – jb)

Anyone who spends time Former Mission Peninsula School (OMPS) or Peninsula Community Library knows how lucky we are to have Candy Gardner and her reader dog Lani in our community. For those unfamiliar with Candy and Lani, they have worked with many students who have benefited from their outstanding service with the Reading Dog Program over the past ten years. It’s magical to see Lani provide children with a safe, non-judgmental and fun reading time.

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Lani is Candy’s fourth therapy dog ​​who has been certified by Therapy Dogs International. Candy also has another dog, Rosie, who is currently in training. While Lani is considered a “reading dog,” her certification allows visits in any situation where therapy dogs are needed.

Candy Gardner and Lani the Reading Dog in the OMPS Library |  Jane BoursawPhoto
Candy Gardner and Lani the Reading Dog in the OMPS Library | Jane BoursawPhoto

When Candy retired, she had the opportunity to combine two of her greatest loves: continuing to work with children and also working with her dogs. The first time she did an Internet search for “Reading Dogs,” a photo of a child reading to a Bernese Mountain Dog came up. He looked exactly like Candy’s dog! She also had fond memories of seeing her own sons happily reading to their family’s Bernese Mountain Dogs decades earlier.

Any breed of dog, including mixed breeds, can be a therapy dog. The most important elements are the dog’s temperament and training, as well as having a dedicated therapy dog ​​handler. Candy, an avid therapy dog ​​handler, notes, “It’s the best work, but it’s a lot of work.

Here is Lani with some OMPS preschoolers while Leah Derris reads to them. (Editor’s note: By the way, the “Bear” book she’s reading was written by my writer friend Karma Wilson. -jb)

Lani the Reading Dog listens to Leah Derris read to preschoolers at Old Mission Peninsula School |  Jane BoursawPhoto
Lani the Reading Dog listens to Leah Derris read to preschoolers at Old Mission Peninsula School | Jane BoursawPhoto

OMPS co-director Renee Kolle says the kids love Lani. “Lani, the reader dog, is a celebrity in our school. Every student, regardless of reading ability, jumps at the chance to read to Lani.

Most reading dog programs are based on the belief that almost anything we can do to encourage children to read is a good thing. The activities we enjoy are the ones we tend to do the most. The activities that we repeat, we tend to improve. So more reading can lead to better reading which can lead to more learning. That’s why we read to dogs! Or at least one of the reasons.

Candy Gardner and Lani the Reading Dog listen to children reading in the OMPS library |  Jane BoursawPhoto
Candy Gardner and Lani the Reading Dog listen to children reading in the OMPS library | Jane BoursawPhoto

Sometimes it’s hard for us to remember how incredibly complex learning to read is, so we often take it for granted. First, we need to learn letter recognition and identification, then associate the sounds with the letters, and then mix those sounds into words. Another step is to understand the meaning of these words in sentences, then paragraphs and more.

It becomes so automatic for most of us that we forget how complex and difficult the process of learning to read can be. It helps to find reading material that matches the student’s interests and independent reading level. If a student is interested in a particular topic, it can be a wonderful opportunity to read with or for them.

Lani the Reading Dog listens to children read in the library OMPS |  Jane BoursawPhoto
Lani the Reading Dog listens to children read in the library OMPS | Jane BoursawPhoto

Over the years, Candy and her therapy dogs have visited OMPS, Northport School and the Peninsula Community Library. While the dogs were in training, they toured Munson Healthcare facilities and the Tendercare Health Center. Therapy dogs need basic obedience training and an introduction to various therapy visit situations. Some examples of therapeutic situations are encountering a person in a wheelchair or a person walking with the aid of crutches.

There’s an old saying that therapy dogs are born, not bred. The dog should be calm, confident, have an affectionate disposition and be comfortable around strangers. It is important that the dog can receive attention and pets from strangers. The dog must be at least one year old to be tested, must be reliable, predictable and have strong basic obedience skills.

Each certification body develops its own test protocol. the American Kennel Club provides a list of organizations approved for the certification of therapy dogs. Therapy dog ​​handlers must understand basic dog obedience and maintain control of their dog at all times. They must know all the policies of the places of visit as well as the policies of the certification body. A background check from the therapy dog ​​handler is usually a requirement for visits.

The Traverse City area needs more certified therapy dogs. Lani is in high demand and has been invited to visit several other schools. Therapy dogs are also needed in nursing homes, hospitals, hospices, airports, libraries, court systems and, of course, schools.

If you are interested in undergoing therapy dog ​​training with your dog, please do not hesitate to contact Candy at [email protected].

Lani the dog reading in the OMPS library |  Jane BoursawPhoto
Lani the dog reading in the OMPS library | Jane BoursawPhoto
Lani the Reading Dog with preschoolers at Old Mission Peninsula School |  Jane BoursawPhoto
Lani the Reading Dog with preschoolers at Old Mission Peninsula School | Jane BoursawPhoto

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