For hundreds, maybe thousands, of children across the country, there are some new heroes in their towns: reading therapy dogs. These four-legged listeners are helping kids with their reading skills. The dogs are non-judgmental and lend the children confidence, and just how heroic this activity is has been affirmed by the announcement that Elle, a reading therapy dog, has won the American Humane Society’s 2013 American Hero Dog award.
What makes the award especially noteworthy (because there are a lot of amazing hero dogs) is that this year’s honoree is a Pit Bull. AHA president and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert said, “As an organization that for years has fought breed-specific legislation (BSL), we are also pleased to honor a breed that has been often been unjustly maligned,” according to an article by Ariel Guterman. “We hope that Elle’s story will help to underscore the many tremendously positive qualities of this breed.”
Five-year-old Elle visits an elementary school and a middle school in North Carolina, and lends confidence to children and helps them improve their reading skills. Dogs, unlike peers and adults, are non-judgemental and, as it turns out, good listeners as well. The program Elle is in is called “Tail Wagging Tales” and was started by her guardian, Leah Brewer, who has secondary goals: teaching children about dog safety and overcoming stereotypes.
The AHA award winner was announced at a black-tie event on Oct. 6 by celebrity judges that included singer and actress Kristin Chenoweth and singer Miranda Lambert.
Other finalists for the award included several service dogs, an explosive detection dog, a law enforcement canine that helped apprehend criminals, and a search-and-rescue dog. The award show will air in a 90-minute special on the Hallmark Channel on Oct. 30.
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