When children learn how to read, they often find it embarrassing if they need to read out loud to others. In recent years, a new activity has taken light to help children gain confidence when learning how to read. This is the action of reading to animals. Dogs, cats, or pocket pets are great subjects to give children a focal point for their reading activities without worrying about ridicule, laugher, or teasing.
17 years ago in Salt Lake City, Utah, a new program was created to help kids with their reading accomplishments. R.E.A.D. stands for Reading Education Assistance Dogs and the program has flourished across the United States. It was devised initially for children who struggled to read or who spoke other languages. Therapy dogs were already used for other means, but this was the first opportunity for children to use them specifically for educational purposes.
Kathy Klotz is the executive director this exciting program. She claims it was an idea that one of their board members had at the spur of the moment. The program members thought that if dogs were able to help others with therapeutic needs, why not try them for those who are learning to read.
It takes a special dog to be a reading companion. The pooch needs to have a desire to make those around it feel their best. A dog that aims to please is a desirable participant for the program. The dog’s owner needs to also be ready to have their pet volunteer for this program. The pair needs to be trained before the dog sits down with a reading child. This is to ensure the dog has the right temperament for the job and that they will withstand engaging with children on a routine basis.
The R.E.A.D. program requires that a reading child is left alone with a therapy dog and their owner for each session. This is to stop the child from becoming distracted and to keep them engaged in the task at hand. The owner is there for facilitating reasons. The dog listens to the child as they read out loud and the dog’s owner stays off to the side to let their pet do their work.
According to Klotz, “the thing about reading with dogs, is there is no peer pressure involved, which is a horrifying experience for many children”. Dogs will not laugh at children if they say something incorrectly. They do not spread the word that a child is struggling with a particular word or phrase. Dogs do not become impatient if a child reads slowly. They simply sit down with a child and listen as they read.
During R.E.A.D.’s first pilot program, dozens of children from all age-levels participated with reading to dogs. Within a school year, each child’s reading level increased from two to four levels. This requires 20 minutes of consistent reading every single week. As a child’s confidence boosts during the program, they tend to start reading at home and participating in other activities where reading is necessary. This will cause an even further increase in confidence.
A study conducted by UCLA proves that therapy dogs assist with lowering a person’s stress level. These dogs cause blood pressure to drop, the breathing rate to slow, and relaxation to overtake the body. The R.E.A.D. program is now available in all 50 states and has even been adopted in 15 foreign countries.
Mayor Max III: The Golden Retriever Who Leads with Love
In the picturesque unincorporated mountain town of Idyllwild, nestled in the heart of Southern California, an extraordinary political figure has been making waves for the past year. But this isn’t your typical politician; this is Mayor Max III, a lovable and charismatic golden retriever who has celebrated a year in office as the town’s mayor. In a town known for its unique and quirky traditions, Max III has carved out a special place in the hearts of the residents.
The legacy of golden retriever mayors in Idyllwild began in 2012 when Mayor Max I took office, followed by Mayor Max II. These remarkable dogs were more than just pets; they were symbols of unity and positivity in a world sometimes marked by division and strife. Max III proudly continues this legacy, and some say he possesses a unique talent passed down from his predecessors—a charming “mouth-closing trick.”
Phyllis Mueller, Max III’s owner, attests to the magic of this trick. “I just held the treat above his mouth, and he knew exactly what to do, without any instruction,” she says with a proud smile. This special skill has become a signature move during his public appearances in the center of town, where Max III has embraced his role with enthusiasm.
Mayor Max III’s duties extend beyond his charming tricks. He is a dog on a mission to bring joy and comfort to the people of Idyllwild. His calendar is filled with visits to schools, nursing homes, and hospitals, where he spreads cheer and offers a welcome distraction from life’s challenges. “It’s a fun way to do politics because we don’t do anything divisive, ever,” Mueller explains.
Max’s journey to becoming the mayor of Idyllwild is a heartwarming tale. Phyllis Mueller, a successful owner of a full-service marketing agency, always maintained a commitment to living on a smaller budget with the intention of giving back to the community. When she adopted Max, she realized that golden retrievers were the perfect ambassadors for her mission to achieve world peace through love and compassion.
Several golden retrievers later, Mueller, along with her husband Warren and their elderly dog Max, made a life-changing move from Pasadena to Idyllwild in the summer of 2011. Fate seemed to be on their side when the town’s animal rescue center announced that it would be holding its first-ever election for a non-human mayor. This was the opportunity they had been waiting for.
In their cozy mountain home, Mayor Max III enjoys the perks of his position. Mueller proudly showcases one of two tie closets for the mayor, where Max’s collection boasts an impressive 3,000 ties. However, being a mischievous pup at heart, Max couldn’t resist indulging in a few of his ties, devouring three of them during his first month in office.
But beyond the ties and the charming tricks, Mayor Max III serves as a reminder to the people of Idyllwild that there is still goodness in the world. “Every day, people do good things,” says Mueller, “and these dogs here, they are living angels, and they love you with all their heart.”
As Mayor Max III continues his reign, the town of Idyllwild remains a shining example of how love, unity, and the unbreakable bond between humans and their four-legged companions can make the world a better place—one adorable golden retriever at a time.
Love, Laughter, and 75 Years Together: Gene and Virginia Nelson’s Remarkable Anniversary
Gene and Virginia Nelson of Canby, Oregon, have a relationship that showcases love’s enduring power. The couple recently celebrated an incredible 75 years of marriage, a milestone that very few can claim to have reached. When asked the secret to their lasting love, they attribute it to patience, trust, and a good sense of humor.
Gene, at 95, and Virginia, at 92, have seen a lifetime of changes and challenges, but their love has remained steadfast. When questioned about their enduring bond, Virginia simply replied, “We were just meant to be together!” Gene chimed in, “Have patience through the good times and the bad, try to be honest and faithful.”
Their journey began 75 years ago on August 8 when they decided to elope from Brownsville, Oregon, in Linn County. They hopped on a bus to Reno and got married, a move that still brings a giggle to Virginia’s lips as she recalls how they outfoxed their parents. At the time, Virginia was just 17, and Gene was 20, with Gene humorously adding, “I was 20 and five months, lacked 2 days, and she was 17 years and 25 days.”
According to their grandson, Cody Westphal, their sharp minds are one of the reasons behind their enduring relationship. He said, “Just actively trying to exercise your mind is how it stays sharp.”
The couple has three children and seven grandchildren, with the youngest being 29 years old. Gene recalled what made him know that Virginia was the one, saying, “She was a sweet girlfriend, and I hadn’t found out any of her faults yet when we were young,” which elicited laughter from both of them.
Judy, their daughter, expressed her pride in her parents’ long-lasting love. She said, “It takes a lot to make it 75 years and not give up, and they never gave up.”
Their sense of humor remains a cornerstone of their relationship, as Judy shared, “They both have a really good sense of humor.” Gene and Virginia often engage in friendly banter, and even if they have disagreements during the day, they never go to bed angry.
The couple’s thrifty nature is another shared trait. They still have the refrigerator they purchased right after their wedding from Sears Roebucks, and it’s still in working condition. Just like their marriage, it has stood the test of time. Gene proudly mentioned, “Never had a service charge, and it’s still working! We’ve always been thrifty.”
Their light-hearted arguments, thrifty habits, and enduring love have earned them the nickname “the Bickersons” among family members. Cody noted, “Even if they fight all day, they don’t go to bed angry. I think that’s why they wake up the next day, and they’re still the Bickersons!”
In the twilight of their lives, Gene and Virginia continue to cherish their partnership. As Gene put it, “We’re in our waning days. I hope she outlives me because I don’t want to outlive her.” Their story is a heartwarming reminder that love, patience, and a good sense of humor can make a marriage truly timeless.
Jacksonville Man Spreads Love and Positivity at the Beach
In Jacksonville, Florida, a man has been making waves of positivity and spreading kindness at the Beach Boulevard and San Pablo Road South intersection. With handmade signs that read, “Have a wonderful Day!! I Love You” and “You are Relevant,” this man is on a mission to uplift the spirits of those who pass by. His heartwarming gestures have not gone unnoticed, and his actions are especially poignant during National Suicide Prevention Month.
Rika, a local resident, had a unique encounter with this compassionate individual. She was on her way to pick up her lunch when she saw a man standing in the median of the road, holding these uplifting signs. Most of us would just glance and continue on our way, but Rika decided to take a closer look. As she stopped at a red light, she took a few pictures to capture the moment. To her surprise, the man approached her car and handed her a sunflower.
“So picture this… you’re out going to pick up your lunch, and there’s this random guy walking by with a handmade sign,” Rika recounted. “I’m sure like most of us, we’d glance and keep it moving, but I decided to read his sign since I was at a stop light. I snapped a few pictures because why not, but as I was doing this, he approached my car door to hand me a sunflower! Don’t forget to appreciate the small things.”
This simple act of kindness had a profound impact on Rika, as it has on many others who have encountered this man and his signs. His message of love and importance reminds us all to appreciate the small joys in life and to acknowledge our worth.
The man’s efforts are not just a random act of kindness; they hold special significance during National Suicide Prevention Month. September is a time when people and organizations across the country work to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention. This Jacksonville man’s compassionate actions align perfectly with the spirit of this month, as he strives to remind people that they matter and that there is goodness in the world.
Arizona Family Finds Missing Dog After 12 Years
In the warm and sunny state of Arizona, a touching story of a lost dog named Minion recently unfolded. After an astonishing 12 years apart, Minion was finally reunited with his loving family thanks to the magic of a tiny microchip.
It all began when a compassionate officer from Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC) picked up a dog wandering the streets. The senior dog, with a demeanor that seemed a bit reserved and melancholic, had never wagged his tail during his time at the shelter. Little did they know that this seemingly lost and lonely dog held a remarkable secret.
Upon routine scanning of the dog’s microchip, a heartwarming discovery was made. The microchip revealed the dog’s name – Minion – and even more astonishingly, it provided a link to his family. The family had experienced the heartache of losing their beloved furry friend 12 long years ago, all because a maintenance worker had accidentally left the back gate open in 2011.
With the information obtained from the microchip, MCACC embarked on a mission to reunite Minion with his long-lost family. This heartwarming tale took a poignant turn as a field officer drove 15-year-old Minion back to his home. The officer took the time to explain to the owner that Minion had aged over the years and was no longer the sprightly pup they had known. However, the moment of reunion was sure to be a special one.
As the kennel door swung open and Minion laid eyes on his family, something extraordinary happened. Despite his age and the passage of time, Minion’s tail began to wag furiously, and his eyes sparkled with unmistakable joy. It was clear that he recognized his family and was overjoyed to be back in their loving embrace.
While the details of where Minion had been for the past 12 years remain a mystery, this heartwarming reunion serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of microchipping our pets. Microchips are tiny devices implanted under a pet’s skin that contain important identification information. In Minion’s case, this small chip was the key to reuniting him with his family after more than a decade apart.
Orphaned Puma Cubs, Elbroch and Olympia, Find a New Home in Pennsylvania
Two brave puma cubs, Elbroch and Olympia, have begun a new chapter of their lives in Pennsylvania after a heartbreaking start. These sibling cubs, a boy and a girl, tragically lost their mother when she was shot by a farmer. Now, at 21 weeks old, they are finding comfort and care in a new home at the Philadelphia Zoo.
Maggie Morse, the curator of carnivores and ungulates, shared, “Our keepers have been working hard to help the puma siblings adjust to their new home. We are dedicated to ensuring their well-being and helping them settle in.” The cubs are in good hands with the zoo’s keeper and veterinary teams, who are providing them with the best care possible.
Elbroch, the male cub, is named after Mark Elbroch, a leading puma researcher at Panthera, a conservation organization devoted to protecting wild cats worldwide. On the other hand, Olympia, the female cub, gets her name from the state capital of Washington. The zookeepers can tell the cubs apart by their sizes, with Elbroch being the bigger and more confident of the two. He loves to explore and is not afraid to venture into new territories.
Although the public will have to wait until fall to see these adorable cubs, their arrival is a result of collaboration between the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the Philadelphia Zoo. Rachel Metz, the zoo’s vice president of animal well-being, emphasized the importance of this placement, explaining that without intervention, these cubs would likely struggle to survive without their mother.
Philadelphia Zoo sees the cubs as ambassadors for their mission of wildlife protection. They aim to educate visitors about the vital role of apex predators and the complex interactions between humans and predators in the wild.
Pumas, also known as mountain lions or cougars, possess the largest hind legs among feline species. This unique feature enables them to leap impressive distances while hunting. With the ability to jump more than 20 feet horizontally and 18 feet vertically, they are formidable hunters. From moose to mice, pumas can catch a wide range of prey, showcasing their exceptional hunting skills.
As Elbroch and Olympia begin their journey in their new home, their story serves as a reminder of the challenges wild animals face and the important role that zoos play in conservation efforts. These cubs are more than just adorable faces; they are symbols of hope and a call to action to protect and appreciate the beauty and significance of apex predators like pumas.
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