Mooresville resident Bob Armstrong brings his 8-year-old, long-hair German shepherd named Baron to the Mooresville Public Library for an hour every Tuesday.
The pair come to help young readers as part of the Therapy Dogs International Tail Waggin’ Tutors program, where children read to therapy dogs to improve their reading skills. “Dogs are easy to read to and they don’t judge,” said Armstrong.
But for the last two months, Baron has been helping a child with a different problem. Mooresville resident Kenna McEntee, 3, has been terrified of dogs since she was startled by a friend’s dog at 8 months. And her fear had been getting worse before meeting Baron.
Library assistant Sandra Yuen said the first time that Kenna saw Baron, she screamed and everyone in the library was startled, everyone but Baron that is. Due to his training, Baron is calm and stays relaxed as children pet, make loud noises and sometimes sit on him while reading.
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“Each time Kenna came, we would move closer to Baron, said Yuen. Eventually she got close enough to touch him.” On June 30, while holding Yuen’s hand, Kenna reached out and petted Baron several times.
Kenna’s mom, Regan McEntee, said that Baron has made a difference in her daughter’s life. “Before, we couldn’t even be near other dogs, but now, when we are out and she sees other dogs, she tells me they don’t scare her,” she said.
Librarian Nancy Handy said, “Kids love him. He’s a big, long-hair shepherd, but he is just like a Teddy bear.”
In addition to the library program, Baron visits several retirement communities and schools in the area for public interaction. “He is a rescued dog and is the calmest dog I own,” Armstrong said. The pair also does search-and-rescue demonstrations at local schools as well.
Children old enough to read get a bookmark and some stickers for each time they read to Baron. The younger, nonreaders get the thrill of petting a large dog that isn’t jumping around.
But Baron does have his limit – one hour. “I don’t know how he does it, but he always knows when that hour is up,” said Armstrong. And, at a recent program, as if on cue, after lying in the floor for an hour, Baron stood up and started moving toward the door.
“Everywhere I go, people know Baron, but nobody knows me. He is the celebrity, I am just the driver, and I am fine with that,” said Armstrong.
Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Tail Waggin' Tutors is held 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. every Tuesday at the Mooresville Public Library, 304 S. Main St. The library is open 9 a.m.- 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. Saturday. The library is closed on Sunday. For more information on the library and programs offered there go to http://ci.mooresville.nc.us/225/Library