Tuesday, March 22, 2011

If I won the lottery tomorrow...

If I were to win the lottery tomorrow and could spend my time and money doing anything I wanted, I'd create a top-notch, nation-wide program of reading therapy dogs. (Does this surprise you? It combines two things I know and care deeply about.) The dogs would visit schools and libraries and bookstores and any places where people and books meet.

These canine tutors have made headlines recently.

Here's a short, cute video from CNN about a golden retriever reading therapy dog. What parent, teacher, or librarian would object to having children learn to read with the help of this fluffy dog?

No one. No one would object. But what if you substituted that golden retriever with another dog? That dog might be a little stockier and a bit more muscular. It might have shorter fur and a stumpier tail. It would have passed the same tests and have the same even temperament as the golden, but what if it just so happened to be a pit bull... and it just so happened to be one of Michael Vick's former fighting dogs?

From the BAD RAP Blog
Well, then, we would have a totally different story. I've told you about Jonny Justice before—one of the Vick-tory dogs that was fostered and adopted by BAD RAP volunteer, Cris Cohen. After lots of training and assessments, this paw-some dog became a reading therapy dog with a program called" Paws for Tales" in California. In fact, Jonny was going to be featured "at work" on a PBS special about the former Vick dogs and their successes. The PBS crew planned to tape Jonny at a read-a-thon event at a local library until a librarian had a change of heart— no pit bulls allowed, she said. And it wasn't just Jonny she was talking about. It was all pit bulls on the reading dog therapy team. Cris tried to convince the librarian otherwise. He showed her that California law prohibits breed discrimination. So what did the librarian do? She cancelled the event all together. This has left the folks at BAD RAP to ask whatever happened to not judging a book by its cover. To read more about what happened, check out Jim Gorant's article in Parade, No Justice for Jonny.

If the librarian had changed her mind, it would have been a win-win for all—the kids and their teachers and parents, as well as the dogs and their handlers. Jonny could have continued to debunk breed stereotypes in the minds of adults and prevented stereotypes from ever forming in minds of children.

So,  Jonny, in my lottery dream world, you'd be my ace. You'd be my right-hand man, my sidekick, my #1. Of course, this all hinges on me winning the lottery. And winning the lottery means playing the lottery, and I really can't justify throwing away money like that when it could be spent on other things—like rawhides or a honeymoon. In the mean time, I wonder if there's any scholarly research out there about reading therapy dogs. If all else fails, perhaps that is my life's calling...

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