Kids read to therapy dog Wizard at Greenport library

Wizard, a certified therapy dog, is the newest furry friend of Floyd Memorial Library in Greenport and will be visiting the children’s room there every Tuesday from 4 to 4:30 pm.

Whenever Peconic resident Debora Stroud grabs the tie-dyed collar to put on her 8-year-old Dalmatian, Wizard, he knows exactly where they’re going.

“I put this collar on, and he gets so excited because he knows he’s going to go and visit people,” she said. “It’s not just a walk, it’s not just a ride in the car, it’s not to the dog park, it’s not even to the beach — both places he loves. When I put this collar on, he knows he’s going to go and do a therapy visit, he knows he’s going to go see people that love him like this and he’s just so excited, he’s waiting at the door for me.”

Ms. Stroud has had Wizard since he was eight weeks old and his people-friendly personality inspired her to have him certified as a therapy dog three years ago through the American Kennel Club.

“He likes people more than he likes other dogs, that’s the funny thing,” she said. “I don’t know why it is.”

Not to be confused with service dogs, therapy dogs “go with their owners to volunteer in settings such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes,” according to the American Kennel Club website.

Ms. Stroud and Wizard also belong to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, an agency that serves as “an international registry of certified therapy dog teams,” according to its website. The agency provides testing, certification, registration, support and insurance for members who volunteer with their dogs in animal-assisted activities.

While meeting a new dog can be scary for some kids, Wizard has experience around children. Last year he spent time at the Riverhead Charter Schools and has also visited nursing homes.

“He loves the schools,” Ms. Stroud said. “I realized right away that he loves kids and loves their attention and being touched by them so I just thought the library would be great.”

Sarah Batchelder, children’s librarian at Floyd Memorial, previously worked at a library in Arizona that offered a “read to a dog” program. She was excited to see Ms. Stroud’s card on her desk one day and quickly reached out to try and set up something similar at the Greenport library.

“Studies have shown that kids, when they read to dogs, they’re non-judgmental listeners and so it’s a literacy opportunity,” Ms. Batchelder said.

Library director Ellen Nasto, agreed. “I’m a dog lover,” she said. “I was just saying I have retired racing greyhounds so I was thrilled to have the dog come in and have the kids hang out and when Sarah said that she had worked with that before I said great, I wonder if we can do something like that.”

Ms. Nasto said the program is another way for the library to continue its outreach to the community.

“I think that animals can be very calming,” she said. “It’s just another way to reach people on a different level. It’s just another way to reach out to a kid that might be into something different.”

For more information, call Floyd Memorial Library at 631-477-0660.