Therapy dog helps give children confidence in reading at Bridgeville library
Mia Vester read to a captive audience recently at the Bridgeville Public Library.
“The kids in kindergarten seemed like GIANTS to me, and they knew how to do stuff like cut with scissors and color inside the lines,” said Mia, 9, reading from “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel.”
She read the words to Walter, a pit bull mix, as he rested on the carpet June 21 at the library.
Walter is a certified reading therapy dog that visits the library each month so children can read to him in a friendly, non-judgmental environment, said his owner, Lynn Ready Aspiotes of Bridgeville.
Mia, of Bridgeville said she enjoyed the experience more than reading to her own Shetland sheepdog, Sasha. “It was fun, because my doggy doesn't sit still,” she said.
Ready Aspiotes rescued Walter about three years ago from a shelter at the Jefferson County Humane Society in Steubenville, Ohio. Because he's a rescue dog, she's not certain of his breed. She guesses he's between 10 and 13 years old.
Walter was found wandering the streets, until someone called the shelter.
“A friend who works at the shelter told me about him because she knows I love pit bulls and old dogs. We rescue a lot of old dogs,” she said.
It wasn't long until she realized he could help others.
“I had Walter for three days and I said to my husband, ‘He'd make an excellent therapy dog.' One of our older dogs was a therapy dog, so I knew the kind of disposition and temperament the dog needed,” she said.
“It became very quickly apparent that he had that demeanor and that calm, gentle disposition. Wonderful with people. Excellent with kids.”
Ready Aspiotes, a substitute teacher in the Chartiers Valley School District, trained Walter in her back yard to follow simple commands such as sit, stay and come.
He then passed the Good Citizen Test, administered by the American Kennel Club, and Therapy Dogs International requirements.
Therapy Dogs International, based in Flanders, N.J., tests dogs by having 10 or 20 people making loud noises around them and throwing a bucket behind them to gauge the animals' reactions.
“Everyone always says: ‘He's a therapy dog, that's why he's so calm.' But I always say it's just the opposite of that. He's a therapy dog because he's so calm,” she said.
Walter visits Bridgeville's library once a month. He also has visited residents at Country Meadows retirement community in South Fayette and participates in a program with other dogs — including other pit bulls a dachshund and Golden Retriever — at Chartiers Valley Primary School.
Ready Aspiotes said motivating children is a key to getting them to become lifelong readers.
“As a reading specialist myself, I know that building kids' achievement and success in reading has so much to do with motivation,” she said.
“When I'm sitting there, I let the kids go, let them read, let them build confidence, let them enjoy reading to the dog. But when I do private tutoring, it's all about helping and assisting and modeling.”
Walter always receives a positive reaction from children.
“They just love it. Everyone's so positive and loves Walter. We get repeat kids who come back again and again. One little girl brings a bone and toys,” Ready Aspiotes said.
Visits to the library and elsewhere also allow her to showcase the 70-pound Walter's demeanor. And he gets along famously with Ready Aspiotes' 7-pound Pomeranian at home.
“It allows me to show people what this bread really, really is like,” she said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Bids coming in for Bridgeville sewer projects
- iPads will help South Fayette students learn at school, home
- Feedback sought for Chartiers Valley school project
- Organizer hopes to widen South Fayette’s Circle of Friends
- Lauded doctor has ties to Carnegie area
- Carnegie elementary students gear up for STEEL campaign