GOOD NEWS
01/30/2014 01:33 pm ET | Updated Sep 30, 2014

Reading Books To Shelter Dogs Makes The World A Little Bit Better For Everyone

This is Meyer, a 5-year-old shepherd mix whose owner recently surrendered him to a D.C. shelter after moving to a new home where she couldn't keep pets.

reading a book to a dog
Photo by Pam Townsend

On her first day volunteering at the Washington Animal Rescue League, Alanna -- a volunteer who asked her last name not be used -- picked up Louisa May Alcott's story of four sisters' coming-of-age, to share a quiet literary moment with Meyer. It turns out that some big dogs like "Little Women."

"Reading to your animal is a great way to spend quality time," says WARL's behavior and training director, Alexandra Dilley, who tells HuffPost "the animals really benefit from it, as it gives them a chance to sit with people for long periods of time. Some of them get very lonely being in a shelter environment and they enjoy the company."

Some other groups also bring paperbacks to pooches -- one we've heard of has kids reading to shelter animals, as a way to both improve the kids' reading skills and comfort the animals -- and Dilley says "no one is exactly sure" how the program started at WARL. As of now, it has been a "core program" for about five years, she says.

Volunteers are allowed to read any book they like to the animals, who are also given toys and blankets to relax with in their dens. Dilley says that volunteers have brought in everything from children's books to newspapers, and she has heard that James Bond novels are quite popular -- not that the plots are especially important to the canine listeners.

"They aren’t so much following along with the story," she says, "as just hearing a calm human voice, which is very comforting to most of them."

We love hearing about rescue groups that are doing great work. Get in touch at arin.greenwood@huffingtonpost.com!

And -- why not be optimists? -- here's Meyer's adoption page, in case you'd like to read to this ultra-literate guy from the comfort of your own home.

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