Teresa Faucette is a Therapy Dogs International volunteer and an experienced dog trainer. She believes dogs provide health and emotional benefits for humans, and she wants to spread those benefits to as many people as she can. Her sheltie, Max, is a disaster stress relief dog who has helped people after the 2011 Alabama tornado outbreak as well as local hospitals.
“There has been so much scientific proof that dogs can help with stressed and troubled people. Max, my dog, participated in a program for CMC where they took the vital signs of people before and after dogs visited – these were repertory and cardiac patients – and found that the dogs made a remarkable difference in blood pressure and things like that.”
Faucette created a program in the library system to help early readers become confident readers. She and other volunteers bring their dogs to the Mint Hill library for Paws to Read every month.
Max and other highly trained dogs will hold the page down for children as they read. Some can read flashcards, and since no one is perfect, children can be more forgiving of themselves when they miss a word because even their four-legged reading partner misses words once in a while. Faucette says the aim of the program, which she created, is to help children feel good about themselves and about reading.
“Reading is so important, and if we can give the child encouragement, that’s what it’s about,” she said. “You want children to always think of the library and books as a fun thing to do. This is a good place. That’s what we try to do. It’s a different atmosphere for the kids. It’s relaxed. If you get a word wrong, oh well, the dog’s not going to say anything.”
Early readers often find themselves frustrated while reading. Reading to dogs allows them to feel free of judgment, and they can take a time-out to pet the dog and try again.
Faucette is a resident of Mint Hill and has been training dogs for 18 years. She and Max offer many other programs for children and adults. At the school level, Max can help teach children about fire safety, nutrition, and, of course, the reading program. For more information about Therapy Dogs International and Faucette’s volunteer program, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.