Gleanntan Skyes Participating in Public Education Events

Holiday Read-to-a-Dog Library Event

On Monday, December 14, 2009, Maida and I participated in a very special Holiday Read-to-a-Dog event at the Arendtsville (Pennsylvania) Library. Maida and I regularly seek out opportunities to have our Skyes participate in public education events. This opportunity to give back to our community during the holiday season was magical.

Tara (Green Girl) making new friends

Our friend, Suzanne, who breeds Collies, started the local Read-to-a-Dog Program a few years ago and, in 2008 she received an AKC Community Achievement Award for her work. This year, Suzanne invited us to join her with our Skyes.

Maida and I typically prepare for visits with children by discussing the event and assessing which Skye or Skyes in our "family" of Skyes would be the best fit. We extensively socialize all of our Skyes from the time they are born and we are proud of the fact that we have a number of Skyes that are well suited to visits with young children. One of our true "pet therapy stars" is Ch. Gleanntan Gottalookatme - "Boz". Boz started visiting the Ronald McDonald House in Hershey, PA when he was a young pup and he has participated in a wide range of public events. We decided to bring Boz as our main Skye representative. We also brought two of our 12-week old Tony x Glinda pups, "Tara" (Green Girl) and "Harry" (Dark Blue Boy) on the first outing of their young lives.

Although we live about two hours from Washington, DC and Baltimore, our area is very rural. According to the last census, the total population of Arendtsville is 891 and Aspers' population is 324 people (plus a few Skye Terriers). These two communities are located in a major apple growing region with over 5 million bushels of apples harvested each year. Our local historical society provides the following description: "Scotch-Irish settlers established farms in the Biglerville area before 1740, followed later by German families which stimulated agriculture practices. Railroads accelerated fresh fruit shipping after 1880, fruit processing after 1900. Today the area is one of the most intensive fruit regions in the country with nationally known processors and a variety of support industries."

Today, an integral part of the apple harvest is supported by a migrant community. Many of the workers are seasonal but there is also a year round community. We knew that many of our attendees would be children with English as a second language and planned our presentation to reach out to them as much as possible.

We arrived about 30 minutes early and allowed the dogs to exercise before going up to the second floor of the historic building that houses the library and community center. When we entered the second floor library room, we were greeted by the head librarian who enthusiastically thanked us for coming. He cautioned us to keep our turnout expectations in check. Sadly, funding for this particular library has been cut and the library area of this community building will be closing its doors in two weeks.

As the start time approached, children and their parents began to arrive. Suzanne arranged to have a wonderful interpreter in attendance. Jorge did a fantastic job making the families feel comfortable and in helping to overcome any possible barriers with the languages.

By the time we started, there were about 20 children in the audience and quite a few parents. Boz lay comfortably on the floor, allowing the children to come up and pet him. The pups were more energetic and curious as they busily visited with any child who got their attention.

Our presentation commenced with a brief description of the two Scottish breeds. I described how Skyes were originally bred to rid the farm of vermine like the groundhogs that inhabit the areas apple orchards. Suzanne described how Collies were used to heard the sheep on the farm. I described how the Greyfriars Bobby novel first introduced us to the Skye Terrier. Suzanne described how, as a child, she read Albert Payson Terhune's classic Lad: A Dog over and over again as she dreamed about eventually getting a Collie.

Suzanne then invited one of the children to read aloud from one of her books on dogs. This was followed by my readings passages of Skippy the Skye Terrier while showing the beautiful color Marguerite Kirmse illustrations. Our presentation repeatedly emphasized the importance of books and reading. As one might expect, the children were more receptive to our message because of the lure and charm of the Skyes and Collies.

After the presentation was finished, the children were given gift bags that included a number of Skye goodies. Maida created color Skye postcards and we also included a copy of the small breed information card that the Potomac Skye Terrier Club created. The children were also invited to take one children's book that had been privately donated.

A few of the children had been watching me pick up the pups in the beginning of our visit and asked if they could hold a pup. I gave them instructions on how to hold a Skye from the front and the back so that their full body is supported. We all enjoyed the moment.

After about two hours it was time to leave. We departed the Arendtsville Library filled with Christmas spirit. I expect that we will be repeating this program again at a local library early in the new year.

L to R: Boz, Tara and Harry

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