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Tales with Tails: A Dog in the Library

May 05, 2016 03:33PM ● Published by Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue | tori@mycityjournals

South Valley - The Short siblings — Haylee, 9; Logan, 7; Connor, 4; and Tanner, 2 — couldn’t wait to read their library books with Abbey Lynn, a regular volunteer at the library. 

“It’s amazing,” Phuong Vu, librarian, said. “Even the kids who seem to be shy open up. Reluctant readers are more comfortable reading out loud with her.” 

Abbey Lynn is a therapy dog through Therapy Animals of Utah, and, since November 14, 2011, she and her owner Elaina Cowdell have visited the library monthly, giving families an opportunity to read a tale to a friend with a tail.  

“With Abbey Lynn, these kids can build confidence because she doesn’t care if they mess up on sounding out a word,” Cowdell said. “She just likes being with them, so there is no pressure.”

The four Short siblings gathered around Abbey Lynn and Cowdell as Logan and Haylee read to Abbey Lynn, and Tanner and Conner petted her. Haylee said she chose to read “The Magic Puppy” because it had a picture of a dog on it. Abbey Lynn tilted her head toward Haylee while she was reading, making it seem as though she were listening to the words, Haylee said.

It was a great experience for all of the Short children because it helped them gain reading experience and helped them lessen their fear of dogs, Becky Short, the children’s mother, said. The Short family doesn’t have pets and Haylee was bitten by a dog before, so Logan said he was a little nervous to read. 

“I don’t like big dogs,” Logan said. “Abbey Lynn is a big dog, but I feel like I know her a lot, even though I really don’t, but she just felt really nice like I knew her. It was kind of weird to read to a dog, but [I] think it was really fun, and she is really good.” 

The Short family plans to come back next month to read with Abbey Lynn again.

Several families frequent Abbey Lynn’s story time, but often new families try it out, Vu said. Each time Abbey Lynn and Cowdell visit, families can sign up for one of four 15-minute slots. The slots always fill up fast.

Vu, who had overseen similar programs at other libraries, reached out to Therapy Animals of Utah in 2011 to initiate the program at the Herriman Library. At that time, the library had many programs for toddlers and teens, but few programs for the middle range of kids, and Vu said she thought this activity, aimed at kindergarten to third-grade students, would help to fill that gap. 

“I wanted a program for those beginning readers who are not fluent readers who may feel intimidated to read out loud to adults or around other children,” Vu said. “Their comprehension and literacy improves so much if they gain that skill of learning to read out loud.”

When Cowdell, of Riverton, heard about Vu’s request for a therapy dog to visit the Herriman library, she signed up. She said she was thrilled. She and Abbey Lynn had been visiting patients twice a month at the Jordan Valley Hospital prior to their service at the library, but it required more mobility from Abbey Lynn, and the library seemed like a better fit, according to Cowdell. 

When it’s time to go to the library Cowdell puts her Therapy Animals of Utah polo on and pulls out Abbey Lynn’s bandana with the same logo. Abbey Lynn gets so excited when she gets to wear the bandana because she knows where she is going, according to Cowdell.  

“We love being here,” Cowdell said. “It’s great to give back and see the smiles and joy and comfort that Abbey Lynn can give to these kids.”

To check when Abbey Lynn and Cowdell will return to the library, visit http://www.slcolibrary.org/gl/glal/libraryherriman.htm and look for the event titled “Tales with TAU” or visit the library in person at 5380 West Herriman Main Street.

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