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Reading to Dogs

My favorite photo of Willow. We are both lap swimmers.
┬ęcopyright Chloe Annetts 2020

 

 

Saturday morning, the roads quiet, the temperature mild, no car to dig out, so off I went to meet Fletcher, a therapy dog, at the Gardiner Library. The blurb in the newsletter said:


Beginning and struggling readers sign up for a 15 minute time slot to read to certified therapy dogs.Come read to "Fletcher"! A fun, relaxed, stress free environment supports children's learning. Please sign up ahead of time. Spaces are limited.


Gardiner is a small town with an outstanding library, helpful librarians, events, donated books for sale for $1 (dangerous), a shelf of local authors ("Say Nothing is there), and peaceful nooks to read, get onto a computer, contemplate. Large windows bring in the light and a vista of the Minnewaska Ridge.


Alas, no one signed up; Fletcher had a day off. I was disappointed. I had never witnessed children reading to dogs in a formal setting and I was curious. Though the domesticated wolves we call dogs don't have language, their gestures, facial expressions and sounds convey to their co-dependent owners/companions all they need to know about their needs, feelings and the status of the environment. They warn of intruders more accurately than any electronic surveillance. They are protective of their territory and of us.


I have a particularly close relationship with my daughter and son-in-law's eldest dog—Willow—and I'd have to say, though many doubt me, that we completely understand each other. She is smarter and more abundantly caring than quite a few people I know. Although I am thinking and writing and reading all day long, when I am with Willow, I am, literally, entirely in the moment—her moment.


The younger rescue in the family—Nucky—is a comical, sweet-natured dog who I enjoy just as much as Willow, but because Willow is older and frailer, I take special walks with her these days. Sometimes we walk quietly, sometimes I talk to her and she looks up at me in acknowledgment of my chattering. The other day we witnessed an eagle with a squirrel in its talons being chased by a crow. Willow is a German Pointer with a strong prey instinct and I expected her to bark furiously, but she remained reverently silent, as did I. A van stopped; the driver had seen the eagle, and we chatted amicably about the sighting.

 

Eagles are no longer endangered, but bald and golden eagles—their feathers, nests and roost sites—are still protected under multiple federal laws and regulations. These regulations work, the eagles are back.

 

I had forgotten that The Endangered Species Act was signed into law by President Nixon on December 28, 1973. The Supreme Court called it "the most comprehensive legislation for the preservation of endangered species enacted by any nation." Memories of that important day sustain my hope, if not my belief, that we will surface from our present political conundrums with courage and gusto.

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