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Dogs Program

May 21, 2020

When he was born, Tigger had to learn how to walk.

The American Staffordshire terrier mix was born with ectrodactyly, a deformity that manifests as lobster claw-shaped paws.

He escaped death as a puppy, rescued by a neighbor, and braved a trip across several states to land a home with Eve Good.

Then the surgeries started.

Tigger has had four surgeries in three years, which has meant learning how to do everything again — from walking to running to playing.

And now, Tigger is learning to use Zoom.

“We knew he had to be a therapy dog,” said Good, who fostered Tigger with the hopes of getting him through his surgeries but ultimately fell in love with the dog she’s now had for five years. “He’s a ham and loves people too much. If we take him anywhere and there’s people, he will just stop and assume the people are there to see him.”
Good signed Tigger up for the R.E.A.D. to Dogs program hosted at mid-valley libraries as a way to get shy children out of their shells. Children having trouble reading aloud can visit their local library to pet, lounge on and otherwise love on a dog while reading out loud.

“If you bring a dog in,” Good said, “it lowers their blood pressure right away. Maybe they were having trouble reading in front of the class, but they can read to the dog.”

Athena Lathos is the librarian responsible for coordinating the program at the Albany Public Library.

“The program began in November 2017 and is part of our Wednesday programming at the library, which is geared toward families and elementary-aged children,” she said. “The in-person program is so popular that our sign-up list fills up to capacity every single month.”

In other words, the program, Good said, was made for Tigger.

Then COVID-19 came to the mid-valley.

“He never actually got to do it the right way,” Good said of Tigger’s involvement in the program. “But he still loves it.”
A few times a week, Good and Tigger turn on the computer, log into Zoom and listen to stories read by a handful of children with a librarian on standby.

For about an hour, Tigger lies beside Good and listens to children — 10 minutes at a time — tell stories of green eggs and ham, teenage detectives and faraway lands.

“Tigger gets the screen,” Good said. “I pet him to keep him focused, and he’ll look at the screen, but eventually he falls asleep. He loves it.”

The plan is to continue using Zoom through the summer if the libraries remain closed due to social distancing measures.

And while Good said Tigger would do better being close to children, he’s made Zoom work — mostly.

“Once he was distracted by a rabbit or feral cat or something and he jumped out and was out the dog door,” she said. “The librarian grabbed her cat and I grabbed our other dog and sat him in front of the screen while we went and chased Tigger. Other than that, he’s listened and fallen asleep.”

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