The Sage Publication is the student news site of Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, CA

The Sage

The Sage Publication is the student news site of Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, CA

The Sage

The Sage Publication is the student news site of Sage Creek High School in Carlsbad, CA

The Sage

Staff Spotlight
Drake Tieger
Drake Tieger
Staff Reporter

Drake Tieger is a sophomore at Sage Creek High. They have taken theater, improv, and acting before. They also have absolutely zero sense of humor.

Children Find a Safe Haven in Paws for Reading

This therapy dogs name is Ella. She is happy to help kids in her service and receive lots of love.
Photo By Jessica Haid
This therapy dog’s name is Ella. She is happy to help kids in her service and receive lots of love.

Whether they’re playing fetch, being filled in on their owners’ day-to-day shenanigans or even listening to a story, dogs can remarkably impact human lives. 

Since the early 1930s, therapy dogs have not only worked to comfort patients but also to help those in general need. With the assistance of their owners, therapy animals are trained to bring relief to people in many different situations. In order to be certified as a therapy dog, the animals also have to attend at least 10 supervised visits. 

Communities around the country are pairing with the non-profit organization Love on a Leash to bring awareness about beneficial pet therapy. On Wednesday, Sept. 20, the Georgina Cole Library held the Paws for Reading event to help children become more comfortable with reading out loud. 

Love on a Leash began in the early 1980s in Oceanside, California by pet therapy enthusiast Liz Palika. For over 30 years, it has positively developed and spread to almost every state in the United States, reaching over 2,400 volunteers in April of 2022. 

Therapy dog owners who volunteer with Love on a Leash have been bringing their dogs to local libraries for Paws for Reading, giving children the opportunity to read books to furry faces. Owners have also volunteered with therapy cats and rabbits. Paws for Reading takes place at 3:30 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of every month at the Cole Library. The Carlsbad City Library and the Carlsbad City Library Learning Center also host the events monthly; those dates can be found on Carlsbad’s City Libraries programs calendar. Paws for Reading has been running since November of 2002, and it still brings out true happiness in children. 

Love on a Leash volunteers bring their dogs to local libraries for Paws for Reading. While waiting to go into the library, the volunteers and their pets enjoy socializing. (Photo By Jessica Haid)

The program is recommended to independent readers or children who can read with little adult assistance, but kids of all ages are allowed to participate in the events. Some babies have even attended to learn how to say certain words and show picture books to the dogs. Teenagers also come to Paws for Reading to simply enjoy the advantage of seeing cute, stress-alleviating tail-waggers.

Libraries usually have a separate area where Paws for Reading is held so that kids can read and dogs can listen without being disturbed. Children can choose to bring one of their own books from home or they can use one of the books that the library supplies. Each library always has a table with dog storybooks set up for the children to pick from, and every once in a while they’ll throw in a funny cat book, too.

It can be hard for children to feel supported as they grow up, especially those who struggle with reading out loud. Learning how to pronounce certain words can be challenging for young ones, so it’s reassuring when they don’t have to worry about being judged by their reading buddies. These events are an escape for kids nationwide and many children develop friendships with the dogs they read to. 

Beth Hulsart, who is on the National Board of Love on a Leash and is the North County chapter co-leader, has been involved with the organization for about six years. She brings her dog, Emily, to many of the Paws for Reading events in the Carlsbad area. 

“It’s just such fun to see the little kids be so excited about the dogs, they forget about worrying to read and getting all the words right,”

— Beth Hulsart

Those who volunteer in the organization don’t get paid in money for their work, but Hulsart stated, “We do it because of the sheer love of visiting and making people smile.” 

Dogs lay on blankets in the library, while volunteers supervise them in their chairs. Children find peace when reading to the dogs and are also able to make small conversation with the volunteers. (Photo By Jessica Haid)

Bill Sannwald, the senior librarian at Georgina Cole Library, takes care of all children’s services and events held at the library. He said that when children read to animals it “boosts their confidence level and makes them feel comfortable.” Children feel safe when reading to the dogs and are able to find reading more enjoyable.

 Plus, after reading a story to a dog, they receive a Love on a Leash bookmark with the dog’s picture on it. They are able to read to as many dogs as they would like and collect the bookmarks over time, giving them a sentimental keepsake of each event. 

Missy, the main librarian at the Cole Library, mentioned that there tends to be at least 25 kids that come to every Paws for Reading session. 

“We have all kinds of kids, kids that are scared of dogs and they come to read,” Missy said. “They learn that the dogs are very gentle, they love kids and love service.” Therapy dogs can calm children while also being energetic in wanting love. 

Parents and grandparents are pleased to see their little ones become more encouraged about reading. 

Marlene Bullard attended the Cole Libraries Paws for Reading with her daughter and granddaughter.

“I think it’s wonderful that the volunteers take their time to read with the children and if the children can’t read, then the volunteer will sometimes read to them,”

— Marlene Bullard

“It encourages literacy which is extremely important. I think it’s an excellent program and they have a great turnout.” 

Parents can stay with their children as they read and socialize with the dogs. Younger ones find excitement in petting the cute dogs. (Photo By Jessica Haid)

Adeline and Hezekiah are siblings who attended Paws for Reading at the Cole Library as well. It was Adeline’s second time coming to a Paws for Reading event. “It’s really fun because dogs are my favorite animal,” Adeline said. “I like that they’re unique and each has a different personality.” 

Her brother Hezekiah also finds relief in spending time at Paws for Reading, “I really enjoy it because all the dogs to me are really friendly and love to hang out with people, they’re very kind.”

Kids aren’t the only ones benefiting from Paws for Reading – so are the dogs. The dogs love their work in being able to get lots of attention and their end-of-the-day paycheck, which can vary from a delicious treat to a healthy carrot. Paws for Reading events, along with the people involved in them, are positively influencing children’s emotions. 

Love on a Leash used to accept high school volunteers to join the organization. However, because adult supervision is needed with many of the requirements and aspects of work that volunteers do, they had to cancel their commitment to student volunteers. Currently, anyone can join Love on a Leash to help with Paws for Reading at the age of 18. 

Dogs can have a big place in a person’s heart and they make a difference in their work as therapy animals. Paws for Reading events are still being held at libraries around the country, including the Georgina Cole Library in Carlsbad. Feel free to stop in and enjoy seeing children light up at the prospect of cute, furry smiles.

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