Friday, March 21, 2008

The Library

Tuesday night we were knee deep in kids anxious to sit with Maudie and read. We got in a minute or so late---there was panic in the kitchen at home about getting the top on the thermos of tea I was taking properly screwed on---and there were already three children waiting. I was tired and feeling poorly, but very happy to be there.

First up was E, a boy whose affection for Maudie is large and with whom she shares a genuine rapport. He hurried through his books, skidding over his difficulty and lisp and I was sorry we had only one slot. So far he has been the only one who wanted to sit on the floor with her; the physical closeness seemed important, and he was also the most intent on sharing his book with her.

M, the girl who followed had also signed up when we were last there; she is a striking child, there is something so old about her; her features are adult like yet tiny; she sparkles and tinkles, yet there is an odd heaviness in her mother’s face that I feel just under M’s music…

Two sisters came next; they sat with their father at a table nearby an hour before their turn, picking out their books and practicing. They were a little shy, but guileless and I had to keep from laughing as the younger one had picked out a book on obesity in dogs. There were entire paragraphs about veterinary insurance and research, lists of the ill effects and diseases associated with obesity and I think she understood maybe 1/16 of what she was reading.

It’s odd. Clearly the children want very much to sit with us, to interact with Maudie, but as soon as they open their books and start to read, their attention is wholly on the reading. Occasionally, they will reach down a hand, or show her a picture, or check to see if she’s listening, but they take their books quite seriously.

I’d be very interested to know what really draws them in, makes them want to come and sit with us---a stranger and her dog---and read with such intensity. I suppose that as we go on, the thousand petals of this experience will open and I will learn more.

Meantime, we are waiting to find out when we can start in the after school program at a local elementary school. I particularly like the idea of intensifying and speeding up the process; instead of 15 minutes once a month with an ever changing line of kids, we will meet once a week with a small group of the same kids…relationships will be forged and I suspect the impact of Maudie’s good will and appeal will be stronger.

I am having a wonderful time sitting with the kids and my warm, kind collie. I watch her grow more and more at ease as her confidence around, and pleasure in, the children increases. And the kind of working relationship we develop is so different from the one we forge in obedience, where I am the teacher and the director. Here we come as a team; my job is to support and help her focus and then sit back and watch her work her magic.

Working in obedience has helped her grow more confident in all she does. E says that now that she knows what is expected of her, she is relaxing into her new life and her sense of her own ability is growing.

It’s quite a caper, this, rich with surprise and connection and pleasure.


  1. You remind me of how much I miss programs with my dogs working with children. They seem to have such a spiritual connection. I'm just glad they take me along for the glorious ride.

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