Ruff Readers originated as a joint venture of WMTD and the Kent District Libraries (Grandville Branch) as a summer reading event in 2002. Ruff Readers has since become very popular and includes a growing list of libraries and schools in Kent, Ottawa, and Allegan counties. Programs may include one day special reading events, short term programs, or regular schedules during the school year.
The purpose of the program is to encourage children to become better readers and discover the joy of reading. Reading to a friendly, non-judgmental dog decreases the stress of making mistakes or peer pressure and builds confidence in the child. Libraries provide the books and register the children for 15 minute sessions with a dog (and handler). Many facilities provide creative book marks or certificates which include the dog's name as rewards for each completed session. School programs are somewhat different from libary programs as the handler may be required to tutor the reader or the handler may be asked to read to groups of children.
Canines participating in these reading programs are not service dogs. A service dog is trained to meet the specific needs of one person in order for that person to function on a daily basis.
Therapy dogs belong to their handlers (and vice versa) and are loving pets. In addition to basic obedience, these dogs have specialized training to serve the needs of various populations. West Michigan Therapy Dog volunteers are accustomed to such things as medical equipment, healthcare, residential/group homes and educational environments, exposure to individuals with health, behavioral and/or developmental challenges. It is common for dogs to work in groups, therefore, they are well-socialized with other WMTD dogs. Teams participating in the United Way "Schools of Hope" program receive additional training as tutors.
Members of WMTD have completed (at a minimum) assessments for registration with local, national, and/or international therapy dog organizations. Many have multiple registries. WMTD member dogs have strict health and immunization requirements as most volunteer and must meet standards of area healthcare facilities. Dogs fed a raw diet are not eligible as members of WMTD. This is strictly as a precautionary measure to protect the populations we serve. Club members are insured for on-leash programs.
For information on a program near you, please review our "event calendar". To schedule WMTD Ruff Readers for your program, contact our voicemail: 616. 726.1256 and a coordinator will return your call.