The most accepted terms for this field are Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) and Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA). AAT involves
working with someone when a specific goal has been identified. If you do this as a
volunteer, you will work with a professional who will assist you in selecting goals for
different individuals. AAA are those activities designed to strengthen someone's quality
of life. Usually performed by volunteers, they are generally "meet and greet"
R.E.A.D. dogs, such as Molly, are registered therapy dogs
who are working to improve literacy skills. Along with their
handlers they have been providing much assistance to those
youngsters demonstrating reading lags and associated
problems related to poor self-efficacy. Unconditional
acceptance from a dog allows children to forget about their
reading difficulties. Instead, they are now viewing reading
as a fun and much-anticipated event.
& Rescue Golden Molly
Here is a message from Molly's mom, Nora
Wilcox about Molly's beginnings:
I rescued my sweet Golden Retriever Molly in the fall of
2004 shortly after Hurricane Ivan. A neighbor owned her and
was using her as a breeder for his back yard puppy mill. She
lived in the dirt, dug a hole in the middle of the summer to
have her puppies, and had never been to the Vet. She had no
collar or license, and kept digging out of their yard and
coming to my house.
I had been wanting to get her out of that situation, and the
neighbor finally agreed to sell her to me for $350. Molly is
a sweetheart. She is now spayed, de-fleaed, de-wormed, treated
for heartworms, immunized, and licensed.
Molly adjusted amazingly quickly. I had her and the cat
separated for a couple of weeks. Neither had been around the
other species before, and Molly wanted to chase Wesley. He
would run, puff, and hiss.
I went through a devastating hurricane that September. It
did over $40,000 worth of damage to my home. After two years I
am still dealing with contractors, shoddy workmanship, and
major disruption on a daily basis.
What a time it was to adopt my very first dog! Just two
months after Ivan hit. No fence, workers traipsing through
the house constantly, and the noise of roofing and tree
removal and carpenters day after day. But I had to get Molly
out of that horrid situation. We enrolled in
a wonderful obedience class with a very patient instructor.
Molly took to it like a duck to water.
I could see right from the beginning that
with Molly's sweet personality and love for children,
she would make an excellent Therapy Dog. At the class I
met a woman who was active with the Delta Society and
she put me in contact with our local chapter. After
Molly finished basic obedience and earned her Canine Good
Citizen, we signed up for the next Delta Therapy Dog
Class. This was a wonderful experience for both of us.
The class met every Saturday at a local nursing home for
six weeks. It was then followed by a comprehensive
practical evaluation at a location new to both Molly and
me. I was pretty nervous, but Molly did fine and was
then qualified as a Delta Registered Pet Partner.
For us to become a R.E.A.D. Team, we took
an additional class that met for a whole day at a
library several towns away. We got very lost, but I
finally found the place and it was well worth the
effort. After completing that training we were then able
to go into libraries and schools as a R.E.A.D. Team.
Right now Molly and I visit a local
nursing home on Thursday afternoons and go to the library
one Saturday a month. In the fall we will resume our R.E.A.D.
sessions at a local Elementary School.
Kiwanis Club of Big Lagoon has found another way to improve reading
proficiency among children in western Escambia County.
It recently presented a check to the Reading Education Assistance Dog
program, also known as READ.
The club decided to make the donation after learning about the program
from fellow Big Lagoon Kiwanian Nora Wilcox. The retired Navy flight
surgeon and her golden retriever Molly participate in the program.
READ allows children who are intimidated by reading aloud in a group to
read to a dog to help them improve their reading skills.
Wilcox said she became interested in the program and the Delta Society,
a national organization whose mission is to improve human
service and therapy animals, when her father was in a nursing home.
The highlight of his week was when members of the Delta Society would
bring their cats and dogs to visit the residents of the nursing home.
"This gave my father such pleasure in his final months when he couldn't
do much and had very little enjoyment in life," she said.
She decided then that she would like to do pet therapy after her
retirement from the Navy.
She and Molly went through extensive training and a strict practical
evaluation to become registered Pet Partners.
"After that, we took additional classes to also become certified as a
Reading Education Assistance Dog Team," Wilcox said. "This certifies us
to go to schools and libraries and do literacy volunteer work with
During a recent READ program at the Southwest Branch Library, Big Lagoon
Kiwanians Dave Herman, Carmen Ciardello, Al Bender and Curtis Brotherton
watched as Molly and Great Dane Cosmost listened to children reading.
At the close of the reading hour, Kiwanis Club of Big Lagoon president
Carmen Ciardello presented a $500 check to Wilcox to be used in
furthering the reading program.