COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A group of middle school students in Knox County is taking a different approach to saving animals and finding new ways to get them adopted.
At the Knox County Animal Shelter, the Working Dogs Awareness Group (WAGS) reads to animals for an hour, once a week.
The volunteer program was started by 6th grade Mount Vernon Teacher Trudy Debolt.
“That is why we come, to make them more adoptable, to let them know it is okay to trust again,” Debolt said.
The program started four years ago after Debolt and her then class finished the book, “Cracker” by Cynthia Kadohata, about a military work dog in Vietnam.
“The kids wanted to do more,” Debolt said.
The program has grown from just a dozen kids a few years ago, to about 50. Many kids, like 12-year-old Alex Back, are repeat readers.
“You start from further away from the cage, and then work slowly closer and closer,” Alex said. “In the beginning, they are really shy and they feel like there is no hope for them, but then we make them realize that people are not going to hurt them.”
The children usually sit with legs crossed directly in front of the cages. The kids can read whatever they want to the dogs. Debolt hopes it instills in the kids a love for reading.
“It’s every teacher’s dream,” Debolt said.
Child volunteers also sometimes read to the cats at the Knox County Humane cat shelter.
The program is also translating into more adoptions at the Knox County Animal Shelter.
”It helps, that is for sure,” Dog Warden John Carhart said.
He has invited the volunteers back every year, “The easier the dog is to handle when people come to see the dog, the better chance the dog is going to be adopted,” Carhart said.
For the kids, time spent with the animals is what brings the back, especially for Alex, who does not have a dog of her own, “I just like to see the dogs reactions when I come back, and I just like to see them get adopted,” she added.