Reading to Pets in Rescue
Anyone who knows me understands that there are three important things in my life: My family (which includes my pets), animals (of any species) and books. Find a way to combine these three things <cough – PetsWeekly – cough>, and I’m a happy camper. That’s just one reason why the new “reading to animals” program from the Arizona Animal Welfare League & Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (AAWL & SPCA) is so important to me.
In the words of George R.R. Martin, “A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”
This is a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with and just as reading helps us, reading to animals helps them. Reading is an invaluable tool to help shelter animals become happier, more socialized pets.
There are several shelters around the nation taking advantage of programs like these, and each program results in animals who are more relaxed and much more socialized, which means they will more easily adjust into their new lives in “forever” homes. Reading helps alleviate shelter stress, giving pets an opportunity to focus on a person’s voice, while giving them a break from the chaotic nature of a shelter environment.
“Reading is an important socialization activity for dogs and cats,” explains Whitney Fletcher, Director of Volunteers & Special Events at AAWL & SPCA. “It helps fearful dogs and cats become more comfortable with people without forcing interaction.
“As you read out loud, you are focusing on something other than the animal,” she explains. “In turn, the animal grows accustomed to your presence and voice, which is calming.”
It really doesn’t matter what the volunteer reads, she notes, adding that college students volunteering at the shelter often read their textbooks to the animals. “Dogs and cats find the rhythmic sound of a voice very comforting and soothing.”
AAWL & SPCA volunteers can either bring their own books or borrow one from the shelter’s free Little Library.
Reading programs are just one of the many socialization techniques that organizations use to help dogs and cats become better pets. Other programs include night walks with shelter dogs at local parks and “Doggie Coffee Dates,” in which volunteers take pups with them to local coffee shops each Saturday. These programs help the dogs learn to interact with strangers and become accustomed to new situations.
Volunteer Rachel Hafer reading to Turner at the Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA. Rachel spends much of her free time at AAWL reading and studying with the dogs.
If you’re in Arizona, contact the AAWL to learn how you can be a part of this excellent program. If you’re not in Arizona, contact your local humane society or no-kill animal rescue to learn how you can begin such a program in your area.
For more information about AAWL & SPCA, visit www.aawl.org or call 602-273-6852.