Outreach pooch Petal and pal to be library regulars

Megan De Cort (12, left) and Emma Magee (6) read to Petal the St John/SPCA Outreach Therapy pet...
Megan De Cort (12, left) and Emma Magee (6) read to Petal the St John/SPCA Outreach Therapy pet at the Alexandra Library. The outreach programme, which is already operating at an Alexandra rest-home and about to begin in Queenstown, is being launched at the Alexandra Library next week. PHOTO: CENTRAL OTAGO DISTRICT COUNCIL
An outreach programme bringing smiles to the faces of Alexandra rest-home residents is being expanded to other generations.

The St John Outreach Therapy Pets programme, a joint initiative between St John and the SPCA, is already operating at the Ranui Court Retirement Village, where volunteer Anne Davies and her shih tzu-Maltese-wheaten, Petal, have been visiting residents since late last year.

The programme has also been operating in Wanaka for about four years, is about to begin in Queenstown, also operates in Gore and may expand to Cromwell.

Now the programme has been rolled out to the Alexandra Library, where Petal will next week start visiting as part of a new reading programme.

The "Reading to Dogs" programme was designed to provide a relaxed environment that encouraged children to gain confidence and enjoyment of reading, library team leader Gaye Anderson said.

However, adults wishing to improve their reading skills were also welcome to take part in the programme.

The Alexandra sessions would feature Petal, who was a fully accredited Outreach Therapy dog, and Bailey, a "sprightly spoodle puppy" who was "keen to follow in Petal's pawprints one day" and become an outreach dog, a council spokeswoman said.

The two dogs will be at the library on alternate weeks.

Ms Anderson said the benefits of pet programmes were well known, and it was expected the Alexandra library programme would provide a "lovely, relaxing" environment with canine company for less confident readers.

- Additional reporting Alexia Johnston.

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