“Hi, I’m Cooper! Won’t you read to me?”
Katherine Jochen and her therapy dog, Cooper, have been reading with children at all three Yonkers Public Library branches since 2020. Katherine has Crohn’s disease, and there was a period of time when she spent long stretches in the hospital. She always enjoyed when the therapy dogs were there, and made up her mind that as soon as she was able to, she would get a dog, specifically an Old English Sheepdog.
It is important for any dog owner to get just the right dog for their lifestyle and temperament. Jochen strongly suggests one does extensive research to choose the breed of dog that is right for you, and select the breeder with the same degree of deliberation. Jochen was able to describe exactly what she wanted to the breeder, who selected a puppy that turned out to be a perfect match!
Therapy dogs are highly trained. For any dog to be certified as a therapy dog, they must undergo four levels of obedience training and two months of therapy dog training, and then pass a test. Once certified, the dog must regularly retake the test to ensure they are still suited to service. The skills tested are things such as not being startled when a very loud object is dropped nearby; being able to pass another dog without tugging on the leash or smelling the dog; and staying calm while being pet by several people in a loud environment.
Though Cooper is a therapy dog, there are other types of animal support. A service dog is trained to work with one person with a particular need. These animals can be trained to turn on lights or open doors, for example. An emotional support animal is for one person for a particular need e.g., claustrophobia or depression. A therapy dog has to be people-oriented. Cooper for instance, loves everybody! Not only does Jochen train her animals, she is also a therapy dog evaluator who certifies other therapy dogs.
What Jochen loves about the R.E.A.D. program is to have the opportunity to support kids in their own love of reading. Jochen said that reading was the best gift her mother gave her, and that reading was the main activity to help her pass the time while she was hospitalized. Cooper is non-judgemental and does not care how much you struggle with reading — he loves you just the same! Also, kids are more relaxed around animals and, in some neighborhoods, Cooper may be the first dog the children have met with an agreeable disposition.
Cooper’s R.E.A.D. program is open to everyone. Jochen and Cooper are part of the organization “Therapy Dogs of Rockland”, who send teams all over the area. Cooper’s is also a psychiatric therapy dog at Jocoby Medical Center and an assistive therapy dog at Blythedale Childrens’ Center.
Cooper will visit the Crestwood Library on Thursday, December 9, from 4-5 pm. To register, click here.
Daphne Platt is the IB Coordinator at Mt. Vernon High School. She has been interning at the Crestwood Library as a requirement for an advanced diploma in Educational Leadership. Daphne enjoys spending time with her family.