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Bronxville Kids Practice Reading To Therapy Dogs

BRONXVILLE N.Y. - The Bronxville library has been packed with dogs and children recently, as part of a dog therapy program that encourages kids to sharpen their reading skills by reading alongside a canine companion.

The program, Paws For Tales, was set up in Bronxville over the summer by Elizabeth McGough, 16, as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award Project. More than 50 children have read to the therapy dogs in the program’s five sessions.

"I have a therapy dog, so I know what they're all about and what a program like this could do for a community," said McGough. "While I started the first dog therapy program here in Bronxville, they exist all over the place.”

Henson, a corgi breed owned by Gerald Gammon and his wife, Ann, was one of the therapy dogs participating in the program. The Gammons thought Henson would make a good therapy dog because, as a former show dog, he has a great disposition, said Gammon.

"Henson has a great personality, where he wants to be friends with everyone," Gammon said. "He's so kind and sweet, and he just loves children. He really does have a perpetual smile, and uses it to make people happy."

Volunteer dogs and their owners are certified and insured though Therapy Dogs International, a volunteer organization dedicated to ensuring the quality of therapy dogs and their handlers.

"A therapy dog is simply there for you," said Gammon. "He's there for you when you need to cheer up, and when you need to feel good about yourself. Dogs don't judge, they don't criticize, and they show you unconditional love. Henson has all these qualities in full."

Ellie Brakatselos, 7, read to Henson as part of the program, and said she can't wait until she can do it again.

"I liked reading to the dog because it feels like he really loves you," said Brakatselos. "It's fun, because I don't know how a dog can understand what you're reading. I think they just listen, but they enjoy it too. He makes me feel happy.”

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