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Springfield elementary students read books about shelter dogs... to real shelter dogs

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 7:20 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - O.K. it is a little doggone strange.

But it was very cute.

Education was literally going to the dogs Thursday at Westport Elementary School in Springfield when first, second and third graders read books about shelter dogs to a pair of real dogs from CARE Animal Rescue.

CARE stands for Castaway Animals Rescue Effort and the nonprofit no-kill shelter was started in 1992 with the goal of preventing cruelty to animals. The shelter has saved over 25,000 animals and has a pet shelter on West Sunshine in Springfield and a farm sanctuary in Aurora.

Westport elementary librarian Carmen Puryear came up with the idea to invite shelter animals to the reading class.

After all, she’s used to having critters in her library as she keeps two rats named “Forest” and “Lieutenant Dan” at the front desk.

“We started ‘Reading with the Rats’ at summer school,” Puryear explained. “If we were reading a story and the kids were quiet enough, then the kids would get to pet the rats.”

In this case the two dogs were led around the library by two handlers from the shelter to interact with groups of four students who were sitting on the floor reading books about shelter dogs.

“I think they learned stuff from my dog book,” second grader Bela Nowlin-Urbina said of the real dogs. “It made them feel welcome. I got to read to the dogs. That’s what I liked.”

“I liked it when it would lick me on the neck,” added fellow second grader Kayleigh Hubbard of her encounter with Cylindria, an energetic pooch who was much more active then her partner Aurora. While Aurora was a bit reticent to engage with the students, Cylindria was giving a bath to any faces, arms, legs, or hands that came within licking distance.

There was a lot of giggling, a lot of smiles, and a lot of happy dogs who enjoyed the human attention.

“I think it was mutually beneficial,” said Rob Hardy, who brought the dogs from CARE Animal Rescue. “The dogs love every field trip they get because right now they don’t have much of a change of scenery (as they stay in enclosed rooms at the shelter). From time to time they do go back to the sanctuary but for them to get this field trip during the week they really appreciate that. And for the kids being able to read directly to a shelter animal like the ones in the story is something they get a big kick out of too.”

“I think it softens hearts,” Puryear said of the positive affect the dogs have on students. “A dog is not going to judge. A dog does not hold grudges and the kids know that. So it helps with those kids that have a chip on their shoulder or who have a hard time coming to school and trusting a lot of people.”

Hardy also visited with the students about the role of the shelter and its purpose.

So who knows?

“These little guys and girls may go home and tell their moms about the visitors and maybe they’ll come out this weekend and adopt a dog of their own,” he said.

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