The Douglas County Public Library has welcomed a new volunteer who’s all ears.
Each Saturday in October, Trace, a 41/2 -year-old black Labrador therapy dog, is a willing listener for first through third graders who would like to read out loud to him.
Riley McHenry, a third-grade student at Faith Christian Academy, was Trace’s first reader on Saturday.
She picked out “Gus the Greedy Puppy,” by Jenny Dale, from her own book collection for Trace.
Sitting next to each other in an oversized chair in the library castle, Riley and Trace got comfortable.
“It may take him awhile to get used to you,” said Terry Lynn Cuyler, Trace’s trainer.
Riley read to Trace with animation and confidence, sounding out “stern,” “grumpily,” and “butterfly.”
Cuyler occasionally gave the larger-than-life lapdog subtle hand signals to bring his attention back to the story.
Within a few minutes, Trace had settled his head in Riley’s lap, and was listening contentedly to the story.
After about 15 minutes, Trace was feeling a little restless — like any 4-1/2-year-old — and needed a break.
“He really enjoyed that,” Cuyler said.
Riley loved it.
“I love animals, and I like to read books,” she said.
She also loves horses, playing violin, skiing, and drawing.
Riley’s mother and father, Kelli and Billy McHenry, and her 4-year-old sister Ansley, were at the library as well.
The McHenrys — both teachers — said the family visits the library at least every other week.
“When Riley saw the notice about reading to the dog, she wanted to sign up right away,” Kelli said.
Riley even passed up a Saturday of horseback riding for the opportunity.
“We really appreciate them offering this service,” Kelli said. “Dogs don’t correct you, they just lie there and listen.”
She said Riley loves to read to her little sister, and both girls get tucked in every night with a pile of books.
“They even have little book lights on their beds,” she said.
Anthony Pacurar, 7, a second grader, also took a turn with Trace.
He read “Ribsy,” by Beverly Cleary, also a story about a dog.
“He loves to read,” said his mother, Lavinia Pacurar.
Anthony won a Kindle at the end of the library summer reading program because he read so many books. His mother said he has been reading since age 3.
Cuyler invited children at all levels to sign up to read to Trace. They can bring their own books, choose one from the library collection, or pick one from Cuyler.
Cuyler, a dog trainer and former teacher, said she would like to bring Trace to area schools so children could read to him.
She said Trace is a therapy dog, trained through the Reading Education Assistance Dogs.
The program is no cost to the library, as Cuyler volunteers her time and materials.
“We are just delighted that Terry wants to bring her program in here,” said Library Director Linda Deacy. “It really makes a difference in attitude for kids toward reading to have a nonjudgmental listener. This is outside the classroom, no one is correcting them, or interrupting. Trace just listens, and lets them work through the story.”
Parents need to fill out permission slips before their children can participate. The slips are available at the library, and on the library’s website on the Youth Services page.
For more information — or to send Trace an email — visit www.READingPaws.org, and click on the Nevada chapter.
Cuyler’s website is www.pawsprof.com.