Reading with Sasha
Therapy poodle at Neuschafer Community Library
By Angie Landsverk
A poodle named Sasha became the center of attention at Neuschafer Community Library last week.
The library offered its first “Read with Sasha” program on Dec. 28.
Children took turns choosing books to read to Robert Golonka’s 7-year-old poodle.
Golonka, of Fremont, adopted Sasha from the Milwaukee Humane Society two years ago.
“She was like my dream dog. I like well behaved dogs,” he said of her personality. “She was good right away.”
After learning about dog therapy from the Humane Society, he decided to sign up for such a class.
He and Sasha attended the classes together a couple times a week for about eight weeks.
Sasha is a Fox Valley Humane Association therapy dog.
Her dog therapy visits included Appleton schools and nursing homes before her recent trip to Fremont’s library.
Library Director Susan Frick said they learned about the program through the library system and a partnership with the Humane Society.
“Other libraries have done it, and we had heard nothing but positive comments about the program,” she said.
Golonka is a patron of Neuschafer Community Library, and Frick believes the program went well.
Ten children got the chance to read with Sasha, Frick said.
“Reading to a dog provides a comfortable environment and gives a child a chance to practice their reading skills,” she said. “The trained therapy dog is an excellent listener and is non-judgmental.”
Frick said reading out loud can be scary for children, and last week’s activity was fun for them.
“It’s good for the kids,” Golonka said. “It helps them with reading and getting to know their words.”
Five-year-old Megan Bailey, a kindergarten student at Fremont Elementary, is learning to read this school year.
She chose “Shampoodle” by Joan Holub, and Golonka helped her sound out the words.
The story featured a poodle that looked like Sasha, and it was among the many books about dogs placed on a table in the library that day for the reading program.
Sasha relaxed on a mat while children read to her.
Golonka also enjoys being part of the dog therapy program.
“I was never able to have children,” he said, “so doing this, it’s kind of my way to intereact with children. I have lots of nieces and nephews, but none live close.”
Frick said the library will offer the program again.
“Children get a sense of accomplishment and feel safe,” she said. “Our little non-readers really enjoyed it, too. It makes them want to learn to read.”