Charlie and Harley Cheer the Children
Twice per month Harley, a black lab mix, and Charlie, a King Charles Cavalier, travel to Shelter from the Storm, a Desert Cities safe haven for women and children affected by domestic violence. Ann Leiboh (Harley’s mom) and Suzy Walker (Charlie’s Mom), are part of Animal Samaritans’ Animal Assisted Therapy or AAT Program. They provide human fellowship to each person they visit, but their dogs are the program’s star attractions.
AAT dogs are specially trained to interact with children and adults. At Shelter from the Storm, AnSams’ AAT teams visit school classrooms where children may pet, groom and walk the dogs on a lead. Both Charlie and Harley perform a variety of tricks for their young audiences who, according to Shelter from the Storm Executive Director, Angelina Coe, “are always totally delighted” to see them.
“We are very grateful for the many hours Suzy and Ann have donated with Charlie and Harley throughout their several years of visiting us,” said Coe.
At Shelter from the Storm, older children will sometimes read to the dogs–not for the dogs, but to improve their reading skills. Like all AAT dogs, Charlie and Harley are excellent listeners; they never interrupt, snicker, or judge, even when a child is struggling with his or her material. Many children (who may not have strong reading skills) will happily read several pages to AnSams’ therapy dogs that they might not read in a normal classroom setting because of anxiety.