Superior therapy

Library hosts ‘Dog Nights’

Lynx Custard, of Marquette, visits with therapy dog Clara during Thursday’s “Dog Nights at the Library” at the Peter White Public Library in Marquette. Animals from the SuperiorLand Pet Partners met youngsters in the library’s Children’s Room. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Peter White Public Library staff probably don’t mind a little dander and animal hair in the Children’s Room every once in awhile.

Not if the sources of that dander and hair put smiles on kids’ faces.

Pet therapy dogs and their handlers from SuperiorLand Pet Partners visited the PWPL Thursday evening to let youngsters cuddle, hug and read to the well-behaved animals.

Psychology Today defines animal-assisted therapy as a therapeutic intervention that incorporates animals, such as dogs, cats, horses, pigs and birds, into a treatment plan and is used to enhance and complement traditional therapy.

But as just about anyone who has a pet can attest, animals also provide a sense of calm and comfort.

And what better place for calm and comfort than a library?

SuperiorLand Pet Partners fosters pet therapy in the Upper Peninsula, working with health care professionals and visiting public places such as the library to allow people to bond with the pets.

The therapy teams, of course, are registered and insured through Pet Partners.

Not that the animals are going to be in full attack mode. At the library on Thursday, the dogs — Morzy, Madison, Roxy, Daisy and Clara — allowed face-to-face contact with the inquisitive youngsters who were naturally drawn to them.

They even had their own “business” cards that listed their favorite toys, activities and treats as well as their greatest accomplishments.

Rick Custard, of Marquette, brought Morzy, an Australian shepherd/Shetland sheepdog mix, to meet with the kids.

The 12¢-year-old-dog has been involved in pet therapy for five years, her owner said.

“She loves anything and everything to do with kids,” Custard said.

He frequently brings Morzy to “Dog Nights at the Library,” which is an appropriate activity for a dog that has always loved kids.

“She sees a kid, she’ll run over to them and say hi,” Custard said. “Just loves them.”

Morzy’s card reads in part: “I love being snuggled and pet. I really love being read to. I may appear to be napping but I’m definitely listening. When not doing human therapy work I often work alongside my dog trainer parents to help rehabilitate other pups.”

What it doesn’t say is that her toenails normally are painted, although they weren’t colored for Thursday’s event.

When they are painted, it’s the first thing kids usually notice, Custard said.

However, there’s more to Morzy’s appeal.

“She just has that soft face about her too and she’s so very inviting, and she loves to give kisses. Loves to give sniffs,” Custard said.

His toddler daughter, Lynx, interacted with the dogs Thursday, squealing and even giving treats to one of the therapy dogs.

Tanya Savage, of Marquette, brought her dog Madison to the library as well. According to her card, the yellow Labrador retriever’s favorite toy is the food dish that belongs to her brother Oscar. In fact, she even sleeps with it.

That food dish wasn’t in sight on Thursday, but her attention was focused elsewhere.

“She’s very gentle with kids, actually,” Savage said of Madison, who has been a therapy dog for two years. “For some reason she knows not to jump forward. She’s really gentle.”

Madison even is good with older kids, having visited Northern MIchigan University to de-stress them when needed, Savage said.

“Dog Nights at the Library” concludes Thursday, with the program running from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Amanda Pierce, PWPL Youth Services assistant, said the library will host a “park day” with the dogs this summer, possibly at Marquette’s Mattson Lower Harbor Park, before the fall session resumes. “Dog Nights,” she said, typically runs in the spring and fall.

Whatever the location, kids and therapy dogs mix well, she said.

“It gives a child the chance to open up to someone who’s non-judgmental, and will just sit there and listen to them and comfort them while they’re reading, while they’re struggling,” Pierce said.

For more information on the “Dog Nights” program, visit www.pwpl.info or call 906-226-4323.

For more details on SuperiorLand Pet Partners, visit www.superiorlandpetpartners.org or call 906-485-5815.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.