The dogs in Central Children’s Library are eleven-year-old Sander and his little sister, nine-year-old Aria. The two are trained and certified Therapy Dogs and their owner Melanie Fries is a St. Louis Public Library volunteer. Previously a volunteer at a library in Milwaukee, Melanie and her crew have been coming to Central to read with the children since September of 2013. “When we moved, it seemed very natural to come to Central.”
Therapy Dogs are specially trained pooches that excel at putting humans at ease and alleviating stress. While most commonly used at hospitals and nursing homes, Therapy Dogs also visit schools and libraries to give emotional support to kids who may struggle with confidence in reading. Sander and Aria are non-judgmental listeners who will never critique a beginning reader’s mistakes. Fries says they are especially good with special needs kids. “They are very patient. They are very polite listeners”.
Sander and Aria are a breed well-suited to their profession. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are often used as Therapy Dogs due to their temperament and affection for people. “Cavaliers are lap dogs”, explains Fries “and they keep track of a person’s demeanor”. This gentle empathy is what seems to get kids, even shy kids, to happily read a book to the two siblings.
Contact Central Children’s Library at 314.539.0380 for Melanie, Sander and Aria’s current schedule.