As part of their community outreach efforts, the Center for Animal Health and Welfare in Williams Township has created a novel way for animal lovers to read and spend time with some of their furry guests.
Started in late 2018, the initiative is called the Friends of Fred Reading Program. It allows children of all ages to read books to the dogs and cats in the shelter.
The program was started in memory of Fred, a senior cattle dog who died after suffering from kidney failure.
CAHW Director, Kelly Bauer, fostered Fred in the final stages of his life.
“We started a bucket list, and we did all the things a dog should do in their lifetime,” Bauer said. “If you saw me for three months, you saw Fred.”
Since Fred passed in July of 2018, the center has been doing things to honor his memory and his life.
“The reason we did the reading program was because at night before bed I would read to him and sing to him,” Bauer said.
Bauer finds that the program benefits both the readers and the animals.
“For the kids it’s great for literacy. It builds their self-esteem,” she said. “What better way to practice your reading than in front of animals who don’t care if you mess up?”
For the animals, being read to helps calm them down and become more comfortable with the shelter, Bauer noted.
Bauer also pointed out that the Friends of Fred program has helped families adopt pets from the shelter.
“Kids that came in to volunteer for reading have then put applications in for an animal,” she said.
One of the program’s inaugural reading dogs was a pit bull named Spartikus. A senior shelter resident, Spartikus was the longest-staying animal at the time of his adoption. Bauer said Spartikus served as an example of why the program is important for the animals.
“He loved it. He would conk out within three lines,” she said.
Spartikus was adopted about a month-and-a-half ago. He was eight at the time.
Bauer also said the program serves as a great way for CAHW volunteers to introduce themselves to the animals by building a level of comfort and trust. The program has even helped convince readers to become volunteers.
“People have enjoyed reading so much that they then signed up to volunteer,” Bauer said.
Susan Price recently began volunteering at the center, and has quickly grown fond of reading to the shelter’s dogs.
“When you sit down they learn that you’re not a threat, because you’re not coming at them,” Price said. “It’s very settling to them.”
Price, like all of the shelter volunteers, assists with taking care of the animals by walking dogs, cleaning and spending time with them.
The Friends of Fred program is available any time the center is open. Weekends tend to be busier times for the reading program.
The center is also excited to welcome Easton’s Cops ‘n Kids program on March 21 to read to the animals.
Visit the CAHW Facebook page to stay up to date with the Friends of Fred program, as well as other important shelter news and updates.
Pet profiles are regularly updated on the Center’s website, where supporters can also make a donation in support of the animals.
The Center for Animal Health and Welfare thanks Roosevelt Elementary School in Allentown for donating books for the program. Joanne Jackson, former Allentown School board member, helped coordinate the donation of the books.