Therapy Dogs Host Virtual “Listening Sessions” For Children During COVID-19

With the spread of COVID-19 across the globe, people are being asked to stay in their homes and self-isolate, only leaving for necessary trips to the grocery stores. Of course, this doesn’t mean that normal life has stopped altogether, it just means that much of it has been moved to a virtual forum. And on that virtual presence, helping kids practice their reading skills, are therapy dogs.

Because therapy dogs are such calming presences for kids, they’re often used in schools as furry reading coaches that kids feel comfortable reading in front of without judgment. Since the pandemic has caused schools to close, these kids don’t have their reading buddies anymore. However, thanks to the tech-savvy handlers, these therapy doggies are getting a chance to get online in order to continue their reading sessions with kids, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just take Marvin for example. A Portland, Oregon-based therapy dog, he has started doing his weekly reading sessions online with kids. And he’s such a cool dog too.

As his owner, Kathy Loter, said, “He’s really missed his therapy sessions, and helping students practice their reading skills is one of his favorite things to do.”

Kathy isn’t just Marvin’s owner, but also the program director at DoveLewis, whose Portland Area Canine Therapy Teams managed to complete around 7,000 hours of dog-to-student reading time last year – at least this was prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Determined not to let the pandemic get in the way of reading, Kathy knew it was important to keep the learning exercise going – particularly during a time when kids are home all day with their parents.

As Kathy shared with KATU2, “Reading to a dog can really build a child’s confidence. And we were happy to help out some of the parents who are looking for ways to keep their kids engaged with their studies.”

Once the schools closed, Kathy began to contemplate other ways that she could get Marvin, along with the other reading therapy dogs, Dolly, Farrah, Liberty, Lisa, Kiev, Kashi, and Misha, to still be able to interact with the students. That is when she got the idea to do it in a safe and virtual environment.

That is when the “read to the dogs” online sessions went live on Facebook every Tuesday afternoon between 1-2 pm. People loved the idea, and one of the sessions even had 500 viewers tuned in! This prompted Marvin, along with his other reading dogs, Dolly, Farrah, Liberty, Lisa, Kiev, Kashi, and Misha, to continue the work – with the other dogs even helping Marvin with his daily listening sessions that are live on DoveLewis’ Facebook page.

“Our #therapydogs will be going #live every weekday this week for a virtual read to the dogs event!” DoveLewis posted to their Facebook page. “Have your kids pick their favorite short #story and join the broadcast to #read aloud the dogs!”

They added, “Meet dogs like Dolly and Farrah as they go live from 1-2 pm each day for this fun #stayathome activity with the kids! Dogs are great listeners so kids can practice their reading skills and our therapy dogs are so excited to offer #virtual support for everyone.”

Sounds like some very fun reading sessions will be had during this pandemic!

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