When it comes to literature, canines aren’t very choosy.
Eight-year-old Billie-Rose Kempe knows this for a fact.
Every Friday afternoon the Warwick Academy student spends an hour reading to dogs at the SPCA.
“The dogs don’t really have a preference for what I read,” she admitted. “Once I forgot my reading book so I just started reading from books the SPCA had laying around. Then I made up stories for them. They didn’t
seem to notice.”
The aim of her volunteer work is to reduce the dogs’ stress levels.
“Most of the time they just lay down and listen,” Billie-Rose said.
She started last June after her mother, Julia Kempe, saw a Facebook article about a kennel reading programme in the United States.
The programme gave young children a chance to practise their reading skills before a non-judgmental audience of dogs.
“As it turned out, the canines benefited as well.
“The article showed how jumpy the dogs were at first and when someone started reading to them it really calmed them down,” said Billie-Rose, who loves dogs and reading.
“We called up the SPCA and they said they’d been wanting to do that for a long time but they didn’t know which kid to do it with because some children are scared of dogs. I have two really big dogs at home, both rescue dogs.”
SPCA animal carer Rhondasha Wilkinson said: “It’s good because a calm dog gets more interaction with people. Having Billie-Rose sit outside the kennel regularly teaches the dogs to relax when people come. It teaches them they aren’t necessarily getting fed or taken out every time someone comes to the door of their kennel.”
Added Billie-Rose: “Some of the dogs seem like they recognise me. Sometimes it is quite sad to see the dogs behind the bars. Once there was a dog that stayed at the SPCA for a long time. I got close to her. I could actually go in her kennel and read to her. She would sit in my lap while I read. Her name was Powder and she was a really cute boxer. She finally got adopted and the people changed her name to Snow.”
So far Billie-Rose’s biggest challenge has been convincing her parents to adopt every dog she falls in love with. It’s her “hope and dream” to have lots of dogs when she grows up.
“She definitely wants to take them all home, but we have a daddy at home who keeps on saying no more dogs,” said Mrs Kempe. “If I let her, all the dogs here would be at our house, and our house would become the SPCA. It would become their home away from home.”
By Jessie Moniz Hardy The Royal Gazette