A group of Eastern Iowa dogs and their owners who spread good feelings, and even some classroom help, are boosting their public image this week.
"We’re an all-around therapy group," said Janet Holtman.
Holtman is president of Corridor Therapy Dogs, whose members and their pets visit area nursing homes, care facilities, and hospitals. A series of events over the next week will highlight the group's human and canine members who also help young students learn to read.
Reading Education Assistance Dogs have demonstrated their value in helping young readers with learning disabilities or to overcome shyness. The dogs are attentive without being critical, building the readers' confidence, Holtman said.
Founded in 2010, Holtman's group is hosting half of one of the world's best-known READ dog teams this week. Tony Nevett and his greyhound Danny visit schools across the United Kingdom.
"He is one of the first READ teams in the UK," said Holtman. "I thought it would be fun to bring him to the States and tell us how they do the program."
Holtman said Danny wasn't able to make the trip because airlines ban animals from flying in hot weather. But Nevett will join group members at several public events (list below).
READ dogs and their handlers undergo a rigorous evaluation and training to ensure they're suited for school duty.
"It’s more training from the basic from the traditional therapy dog," said Holtman, whose spaniel Stella works with special-needs students. "They have to be able to lay there and be patient and the child thinks they’re listening. Not all therapy dogs are suited for that - they might want to wander through hospitals and be more mobile."
Holtman said her group's members work regularly in seven area schools and at the residential programs at Tanager Place and Four Oaks.
Corridor Therapy Dog public events with Nevett:
Tuesday: 6 to 7:30 p.m., – Nevett will autograph his book at New Bo Bookstore, 1105 Third St. SE.
Thursday: Children's event at Marion Public Library, 1:00 to- 2:30 p.m.