One neighbor leads to another, and Allison Grey of the Goleta Library led us to Tom Freeman of the Channel City Kennel Club, which offers its Paws to Read program at the library.
Paws to Read recognizes that children are often self-conscious when reading to adults or peers, and therefore avoid reading out loud. Dogs, however, are non-judgmental, so reluctant readers feel comfortable reading to a canine partner. Programs like this are spreading all over the country for the simple reason that they really work.
Established in 1970, Channel City Kennel Club is a non-profit club devoted to furthering and protecting the interests of purebred dogs and fanciers. CCKC is a member club of the American Kennel Club. The club’s activities include conducting AKC Dog Shows and Obedience Trials, Matches, seasonal Handling Class, Canine Ambassadors, Paws to Read, and Canine Good Citizenship tests.
We caught up with Tom Freeman and several other club members as they escorted their Canine Ambassadors to a presentation at El Montecito Early School in Montecito.
“We’ve done programs like this for over 7,000 kids,” said Freeman, “and as you’ll see, they just love it.”
We did indeed see that. Freeman and several other club members bring their extremely well behaved dogs to preschools to help children learn how to care for and behave around dogs – for their own safety and that of the dogs as well. And the children today were ecstatic about their furry teachers.
After the kids were introduced to the variety of breeds present (Golden Retriever, Great Dane, Jack Russell Terrier, etc.), Veterinarian Dr. Sally Mobraaten and her Collie demonstrated how to care for a dog, explaining how to feed, water, walk, groom, and even brush the teeth of your pet.
Freeman teaches children what to do when they encounter an unfriendly dog (Be very still and quiet, and don’t stare – the dog will get bored and go away), and demonstrates proper etiquette for meeting and petting a new dog, which the children practice as the presentation closes.
All dogs selected as Canine Ambassadors are evaluated and approved by Freeman, who established the criteria: “Any dog participating in the program must have passed the evaluation for the CGC (Canine Good Citizen) certificate. In addition, each dog must be reliably comfortable while being petted continuously by small children for a period of 10 minutes or more.”
Based in Goleta, the Channel City Kennel Club brings its Canine Ambassadors to neighbors across South County, including the YMCA Preschool in Montecito, the Little Angels Preschool in Santa Barbara, and the Rainbow Preschool in Goleta.
We already knew that neighbors come in all shapes and sizes, but today’s visit was a good reminder that some neighbors also have four legs, lots of fur, and an endless capacity to love.