Every Monday, Molo gets ready for school, but Molo doesn’t get ready for any old dog school…no sir…Molo attends Morrisburg Public School with her best friend Delia Barkley. Together, the two read with the students from Nancy Beavers’ grade 1 class.
Molo, a seven year old mixed breed dog, is a registered therapy dog with Therapeutic Paws of Canada. In addition, she is registered in the Therapeutic Paws READ program; hence, her work with the children at MPS.
Molo got started on the road to therapeutic work after Delia and her son Denzil happened upon a Therapy Dog Evaluation taking place while they were vacationing in Toronto.
“We were watching an evaluation of the dogs and everything the dogs were required to do, my son and I were saying, “Molo can do that and Mola can do that.”
So upon returning home, Delia researched and found the Brockville chapter of Therapeutic Paws.
Delia and Mola (Denzil is also certified) were successful in the evaluation process, and the rest is history. For the past two years, they have been visiting seniors at The Hartford in Morrisburg, “and after we started doing that I wanted her to be part of the Therapy Dog Reading Program.”
“I contacted Nancy Beavers at the school to determine if there would be any interest in the program, and she said that she would be.”
MPS principal Beverley Bethune agreed that Molo could be evaluated in the school setting, “so my team leader came here to do the evaluation. If Mojo had shown any nervousness or agitation, or if she had been aggressive in any way, we wouldn’t have gotten the go ahead.”
The reading consists of one child who sits on a blanket with Delia and Molo in an otherwise empty classroom. While the child reads, Molo lies quietly on the blanket listening. She exudes calmness and is a very good listener.
According to the Therapeutic Paws website, “studies have shown that reading to dogs encourages confidence and builds self esteem in children who struggle to read aloud in class.”
“I’ve notice a huge improvement in the children’s reading over the year,” said Barkley who was with Molo at the school Friday morning. “Nancy’s original idea was to involve the children who were struggling with their reading, but all the children wanted to read to Molo, so now they take turns.”
Molo’s mixed breed includes Golden Retriever, Black Labrador and Burmese Mountain Dog. Her size is slightly larger than the Retriever and the Labrador but slightly smaller than the Burmese.
“I think her temperament is Burmese. She is very loyal, and we didn’t train her to be that way. But it makes her easy to train because she wants to please us.”
Delia explained that therapy dogs must have a very calm temperament and they have to like people. They cannot show any aggression, and must be calm during unexpected noise or movements. They also have to be comfortable around walkers and wheelchairs and not attracted to food.
Both the dog and the handler is evaluated in the process.
In addition to her contribution to the grade 1 reading program, Molo is a popular visitor at The Hartford and well-known at the Barkley family’s apple stand at McHaffie’s Flea Market where she is known as the ‘apple dog’.
“She is very well-received at The Hartford,” says Delia. “Some of the residents there had their own pets, and they enjoy her visits. We just walk around and she has her regular friends.”
“It’s a great thing to do with your dog, if you have the right dog,” says Delia. “If there are other people out there who think they could do this and they think their dog is suitable they can check out the Therapeutic Paws website or call me at 613-543-0162. The process takes a couple of months, and the evaluation is a couple of hours.”
“It’s a fun thing to do. I work a lot of the time, and I wanted to do some volunteering. And I just felt that I should share Molo. I have a wonderful dog who is suited to this sort of thing, so why not use her.”
When Molo is not wearing her Theraputic Paws vest and either visiting with seniors or reading with young students, she is like any other dog…she likes long walks and playing with her family.