Relax and read to Aspen at the Grand Marais LibraryJan 11, 2019 08:20AM ● By Editor
By Brian Larsen of The Cook County News Herald - January 11, 2018
Aspen is a therapy dog that made her first appearance at the Grand Marais Library on Saturday, Jan. 5. While dogs were pulling sleds up at the Gunflint Mail Run that same day, Aspen was cuddled up in the middle of some children. She has been trained to be read to, and, with Lisa Bauer, her human, she will be on hand on Saturday mornings to greet children and adults as well.
Below is an interview with Aspen. Lisa helped, a little.
Woof, woof to you Aspen. I hope your nose is wet, eyes are shiny, your belly full and the last flea you will ever know left for Memphis eons ago. Here are some questions. What type of dog are you? Besides being furry and cute, I mean.
I am a mini-golden retriever, which means I am about half the size of a standard golden retriever.
How old are you in human years? Where were you born? How many siblings did (do) you have? Do you keep in touch with any of them?
I am four years old. I was born in the Coon Rapids area and I was the runt of the litter. I have one cat brother at home that I share a love/hate friendship with.
How long have you befriended Lisa? Is she hard to take care of?
Hee hee—good question. It depends on the day. It was love at first sight when I came home to Lisa when I was about 12 weeks old.
What does it mean to be a registered therapy dog? Did you have to take classes? Pass tests? If so, where were the classes and how hard were the tests?
To become a registered pet therapy team, the handler must take a course online or in-person that explains the expectations and responsibilities that go along with visiting facilities as a therapy team.
Following that, you are tested and must pass that exam before you can move on to the next steps. After passing the exam, the pet must have a health screening form signed by their vet to ensure they are healthy and safe. After the health screening has been approved, there is a team evaluation that must be done in person.
Lisa and I tested in Iron River, Wisconsin. An evaluator, team of volunteers, and even volunteer dogs are at this test, which takes about 45 minutes. Volunteers mimic real life situations with wheelchairs, crutches, loud voices, and using different approaches to see how the team reacts.
I had to be non-reactive even when other strange dogs were in here. It was a little intimidating, but Lisa said I did an awesome job that day! After that, there was more paperwork and fees, and then a therapy team ID badge was issued. The evaluation must be repeated every two (human) years.
There is additional coursework, testing, and fees associated with being a READ dog, but you have to pass the first step of becoming a registered therapy team before becoming a READ team.
This spring Lisa and I are going to start a “Walk With Me” program, which is another initiative through the Pet Partner organization.
We did something similar to that at the State of Minnesota Veterans Home in the Twin Cities, walking with disabled vets and their service dog. Lisa and I have also been visiting our friends at the Cook County Care Center on Sunday afternoons for the past year, something that really gets my tail wagging!
How did you get started volunteering at the library? Is it through a program?
The library director, Steve, approached Lisa and me about doing this last year after hearing about the READ program. It’s also a pretty popular program at libraries throughout the U.S.
When you and Lisa volunteer at the library, what will you do? Will kids read to you? Do you like being read to? I like being read to and I’m not even a therapy dog!
We will visit the library on Saturday mornings. Children can sign up in advance for a reading time or else just show up. Studies have shown that this program encourages reading because children are more relaxed reading to a dog, as it takes the intimidation factor out. A dog does not judge if a child makes a mistake!
For children who cannot yet read, Lisa will read a book to them. We are really excited to help build this program for Cook County residents!