Read to the Dog
Not all dogs get the chance to show quite how cleverthey are. Danny the Greyhound did. His is a rags toriches story. Found homeless, wandering the streetsand scavenging or scraps in Cork, Ireland, he rose toame as a Reading Education Assistance Dog (READ),and won IFAW Dog o the Year Amazing Animal award, which he received at the House o Lords, presented by Brian May, ollowed by lunch, biscuits and a goodie bag.A meteoric rise, rom homeless indigent to Westminster,10 Downing Street, star o V, doggie magazines andnewspapers. Still the same modest creature, he now visits libraries and schools, where he listens to childrenreading. He’s a big, white springy dog with a big grey patch on his ace, grey, perked up ears, bright, intenteyes and a chirpy look, and he’s visiting Mapleeldsschool in Corby with his owner and trainer, ony Nevett.Mapleelds is a brand new academy or SEN children,surrounded by a high wire ence, every gate or door needsa special security pass, but what does a dog care aboutall that? He’s got his own security pass and everyone’spleased to see him - most o all, the children. Owner ony Nevett has a degree in Animal AssistedTerapy and trained the rst READ dog in England.Danny is the third, and
“he’s a very special dog. People say to me “Why do the kids like him?”
“because hedoesn’t judge. He builds a bond, he gives them condence. He’s never hurt the children [as some adults have]. Teir shouting and kicking-o doesn’t bother him, or the tail and ear pulling. He doesn’t respond to that at all. Look at him. He wouldn’t hurt a fy. Te children love Dannyto bits, Tey know when he’s due in.’
We have a little stroll around the school, around thecurvy corridors, in and out o the classrooms and gym,past the ime Out rooms (or children who need to beout o class or a bit) Te sot play rooms (where they can’t hurt themselves, everyone saying
”A weeping teacher passes us holding her ace. She’sbeen punched. errible roaring and screaming comesrom one o the ime Out rooms. In go Danny and ony.Te screaming stops. Ater a ew minutes, out they come. Te screaming starts again. Nothing phases thismiraculous dog.A boy asks to take his lead in the corridor. He looks likea good boy, holding the dog’s lead.
“I you tell them theywon’t see the dog i they misbehave, then they behave.” “Danny works wonders,”
says one o the teachers.
“As soon as they see him, their aces change. He calms themdown.”
And he does. Up comes a cross little boy witha tight, red ace. He strokes the dog, and hey presto, asmile and the angry red ush disappears. Chidren callout to Danny as he passes, and rush over to stroke him.Te mood lightens. Another boy takes him by his leadgoing along the corridor.ony asks
“Where are you going?” “I’m going to heaven,’
says he.It’s in the library that Danny gets really clever. He sitson some cushions and in come the children, one at atime, they choose a book, sit down next to the dog andstart reading out loud.Danny gets no instructions, but he knows exactly how to treat each one o them – dances and twirls aroundto perk up a sad one, lies down to calm down a jittery one, kisses a peaky looking tatty one who probably badly needs a kiss (“His home lie is crap. See his shoes?Tey’re all busted. His mother has a diferent ‘Uncle ‘round every night.’” He keeps away rom a nervous one,gets close to the one that needs a cuddle, and they alllook angelic in his presence, some leaning on him, andstart reading – no hesitating, no sel-consciousness.Do they like reading to Danny more than the teachers?Yes.
“Other dogs bark when you’re reading. Danny just listens,’
”says one little boy.
‘We had a Jack Russell and aSt Bernard, We had to get rid o the St Bernard, becausehe dribbled and punctured our ootballs.’”
It can be a tough world or dogs out there, but here in theLibrary Danny is King: He has his own bed with Danny print cushion, Danny photos on the wall with varioussmiling, cuddling children, a painting o Danny – doneby a lady who paints with her mouth, and on the shelvesa book about Danny. . ‘Danny goes to London’, Te story o his ‘Amazing Animal Award award. ’In comes a small boy, Kaikia. Danny kisses his hand.
“He’s your riend,’
“He likes you.”
Danny givesthe boy another kiss.
“Tat’s how much he loves me,”’
says Kaikia, and starts reading straight away. In comesEmma, she’s not so keen on dogs, she sits a little way a way. Danny stays where he is. No kissing. Emma readsnon-stop and very well. Tey don’t read like that inclass, but are model children with the dog. Impeccablebehaviour rom all o them.. But through the wall youcan hear loud screaming and banging coming romone o the little ime Out rooms outside. Danny’s notbothered at all by screeching and banging
“I they kick o, he just lies on the foor.” “He used to be very aggressive i you went near hisdinner, because he’d been living on the streets. Out therehe had to protect his own ood. Te vet told me to run my ngers through his ood, so that it smelled o me. Tenhe didn’t mind any more. He has Weetabix and milk or breakast. And whatever we’re eating – bee, Yorkshire pudding. He has some dry dog ood. I add other things toit. Look at his dirty ace! He’s had spaghetti bolognaise.
Tis dog is a saint. He also donates blood to a dog bloodbank every six months. He just lies down, they give hima biscuit aterwards. No tea. He doesn’t get paid or it.Te vets pay, and that covers the costs. And the KennelClub unds his work reading with children. It’s ree tothe schools.
“It works well, why don’t they do it more?’ asks ony, “with a barrel o brandy round their necks or the teachers. Ha ha.”
ANHONY NEVE email@example.com/.