History of Jazz the Reading Dog
I always hope my blogs have a feel-good factor, but I think this one would make even the grumpiest of readers feel better.
Ever get a glimpse into your future; an insight as to what you didn’t even know existed; an epiphany that melts your heart? Well, that very thing happened to me. Read on as I share the history of my beloved reading dog, Jazz.
My husband and I arrived in the Nelson Tasman area in 2001. My job as a speech and language therapist took me to many preschools and kindergartens across the area. One day on a visit to Grove St. Kindergarten I arrived to see this graceful silver-haired woman seated on the outdoor couch reading. Her dog on one side and children crowded around her.
I remember vividly saying, “I’m going to do that someday.” And indeed I did.
Several years later and a few months after resigning from my role as an SLT my prediction came to fruition. A chance encounter with an old acquaintance lead to a conversation about the possibility of being the Story Gran at her kindergarten. The Story Gran at Waverley Kindy had just left. The stars were aligned.
A bit more about Jazz or Jazz Tasman as she was frequently called. Jazz was a GWP (German Wirehaired Pointer). She was a honey of a dog with a temperament that welcomed all. As one of my friends pointed out she was unusually intuitive with young children. I can recall a play session she had with a baby where she adapted the game of fetch to the child’s limited motor skills for throwing. She kept a watchful eye over any children in our expansive garden; following closely as they maneuvered up and down the deck stairs. If the brood of children at our house was more than two she would often be seen doing a headcount and then take off searching until the tally was correct.
Reading Dog at School
With this incredible CV, Jazz was an obvious shoo-in for the position of the reading dog at our local school. She was a delight to most children at Richmond Primary where her skills grew to include facilitating literacy and providing emotional support. In addition, children who were not confident around dogs gradually became big fans of the fuzzy canine. Sometimes I read, sometimes the kids read. Jazz was a forgiving “readee” and even those children who were not yet fluent readers were encouraged by the listener dog.
Reading Dog at the Library
Jazz’s CV expanded as she took on the role of a reading dog at the Motueka Library. She was able to perform her magic at this facility twice during the later years of her career. Mary had always wanted a reading dog at the library. I only regret we didn’t start sooner. But her short history there no doubt made some happy memories about libraries for a few wee ones.
Reading Dog at the Kindergarten
While at the Kindergarten Jazz was able to tolerate the loud and sudden noises while providing the staff with an opportunity to teach littlies how to introduce themselves to dogs. It was first-hand learning for the “do’s and don’ts” in a world where dogs are an everyday occurrence. For newbies, seeing a dog brought a familiarity that often eased the transition to kindergarten. Jazz also provided a nice distraction when the parent had to leave. Sorry to those Mums and Dads, but being outranked by a dog happens to the best of us.
Jazz and I had regular readers every week. Some kids would stay the entire hour. Snuggling up with a warm dog on a cold day was a treat for many. Her attentive, but calm nature was especially helpful for some of the less settled kids.
But for all the naysayers out there that say"reading dogs...cute, but, not much happening" I beg to differ. I have a million stories, but will only share one. One wee boy with limited English approached Jazz one day with a carrot stick from his morning tea. Jazz took it from him, recognized it as carrot, then spit it out. The boy looks at Jazz, looks at me. No worries, the guy follows us and tries again. Jazz gives a few polite chews and spits out the lot. The boy looks at Jazz, then me, and follows us to the book area. Jazz sits and he brings her a puzzle piece. Same routine. Tries another puzzle piece. Same thing. The boy then spots a string of silver beads, goes and gets them, and carefully places them on Jazz's wrist. He looks at Jazz, me, smiles, and walks away, pleased he had finally found a suitable offering. Emotional intelligence, I have had the pleasure of watching it weekly. (Note the carrot and the silver bracelet in the photo below.)
On Jazz’s last visit to Waverley St. there were lots of hugs, a beautiful card from the kids, and green-lipped mussel cookies for Jazz! Even before she saw me crying, one sweet girl who has grown up with Jazz at the kindy said, "This kinda makes me wanna cry."
Thanks, Leah and the team at Waverley for giving Jazz a career that has added so much to so many littlies. This time was one of the most rewarding and enjoyable things Jazz and I have done together throughout her 14 years.
Since then I have written a rhyming picture book about Jazz and I am again teaming with my illustrator Jane Smith to get it published. Any purchases of my books will allow the Jazz book to progress more rapidly.
If you want to read more about reading dogs there are numerous sites, just google.
Again, please forward to your friends and of course buy a book
If this didn’t spark a heart sigh or smile...well what more can I say?