Last year, a Trumbull County elementary-school girl spoke in her class for the first time.
The school knew she was able to talk, but for various reasons, she had refused – until a small, white poodle came along and became part of her reading circle.
“No one had heard her speak,” recalled Art Reynolds, who handles Tasha, a 10-year-old poodle mix that somehow encouraged the girl to open up.
The Hubbard man and his dog also were among the eight volunteers and seven animals on hand for Saturday’s therapy-dog demonstration at the Brownlee Woods branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, 4010 Sheridan Road, on the South Side.
The participants are part of K-9s for Compassion, a Hubbard-based group that evaluates, screens and tests animal-and-handler teams before they visit area nursing homes, libraries, hospitals, schools and other settings. The program also teaches the value of volunteering and giving back to the community, its website says.
K-9s is affiliated with and follows the guidelines of Pet Partners, a Bellevue, Wash.-based national nonprofit organization that introduces therapy, companion and service animals to qualified recipients so they can live healthier, more-fulfilling lives.
Prospective volunteers attend an all-day session to learn to handle the animals, which includes understanding their body language.
Read more about the program in Sunday's Vindicator or on Vindy.com.