But you can have a licker. That’s Tavish. As Sean read “The Maze of Bones,” Tavish would jump up every so often and unleash a long, pink tongue. Sean would giggle, dry his face with his sleeve and read on.
Valeria Gonzalez, 7, liked the little dog she was with “because she cares a lot and listens very carefully.”
After a while, Rawls came in to let another set of children have a chance. Binyam Gebremeskel read with an Ethiopian accent and patted Lucy, a poodle wearing a red, velvet cape. A girl brought a story about a dog to Skipper, whose owner noted, “Very topical!”
One child didn’t show up for her 15-minute slot, so Sean curled up on the floor with the golden retriever, AnnaBelle, while 10-year-old Diego Diaz-Tello brought “Johnny Tremain” to Tavish.
Some children snuggle with the dogs, some sit cross-legged across from them and then turn the book around after reading each page, showing the dog the pictures as a teacher would to a class. Diego, a smart boy with autism, found a small chair and sat down rigidly, not looking at the volunteer or the book, frowning across the room at a blank wall.
He doesn’t like to read at home, his mother, Julissa Tello, said, but he seemed to relax when they brought in a therapy dog once a week to Ivymount School. He became more open to trying new things and completing his classwork. So his mom thought he might click with Paws to Read.
After a long silence, Tavish’s owner, Tracy Baetz, asked Diego whether he wanted to give Tavish a treat.
Diego smiled as Tavish licked it out of his hands, and he told Baetz that he has a beagle at home. He began reading, stopping now and then to ask questions about Tavish or to rub his soft ears. Tavish’s little tail thumped.
When Diego was finished, he asked his mom if they could come back soon.
Owners stood up, grabbed leashes. Children gathered armfuls of books to check out at the front desk. Tavish jumped up, stretched and licked Baetz.
Rawls looked at Sean and started laughing. He was covered in fur, and beaming. “I see you’re really taking the program home with you,” she said.