Lucky pooches spend a Sunday with kids as Susquehanna SPCA, RIF join forces

Matteo Basile, top left, reads “One Starry Night” to Petunia while Declan Artale keeps her calm. (Kevin Limiti/

Lucky pooches spend a Sunday with kids
as Susquehanna SPCA, RIF join forces

By Kevin Limiti

It was organized chaos at the Susquehanna SPCA (SQSPCA) animal shelter on Sunday as children came to read Christmas stories to the dogs in the kennels.

Children hung stockings and ornaments on the dog homes as the excitable canines vied for their attention. The kids excitedly bounced around from dog to dog, all as part of an effort to socialize the furry friends while simultaneously helping the children with their reading skills.

Three young boys climbed right inside the kennels with the dogs to read the stories. Amber the bulldog cuddled up next to Vincent Moscatello, 9, as he read “All the Colors of Christmas” to her. Matteo Basile, 9, read “One Starry Night” to Petunia, a heavyset bulldog, while Declan Artale, 9, sat inside the kennel to pet her. The bulldogs seemed to relax and settle into the stories.

Reading to dogs, though is not just a cute game — it’s a very important one for the shelter.

SQSPCA Executive Director Stacie Haynes said many of the dogs came from puppy mills where they weren’t treated well, and reading to them helps socialize the dogs to humans.

“The more social and friendly our dogs are, the easier it is for them to get adopted,” Ms. Haynes said. “It’s also about getting them used to people.”

She said Sundays usually find only two staff members in the building, reducing the chance for the dogs to have a lot of human interaction. With the kids in tow this past weekend, it was different.

“Today is an extra special day for the dogs when normally it would be boring for them,” she said.

The SQSPCA is a no-kill animal shelter which emphasizes humane treatment of animals including treating them for malnutrition or illness, spaying and neutering, and finding them loving homes
Jill Basile, a member of the Otsego County Board and director of Oneonta Reading is Fundamental (RIF), said she had known Ms. Haynes for a long time and decided to collaborate with her because reading to dogs is not just helpful for the animals but also the children.

“It’s a good way for kids to practice their reading because the animals don’t care when they’re having trouble,” Ms. Basile said. She said the non-judgmental nature of the dogs relieves the anxiety of mispronouncing words and encourages confidence in reading.

RIF supports children’s literacy by spreading awareness of the issue, creating programs to encourage reading, and partnering with community groups to implement literacy programs. They are funded entirely by donations and volunteers.

Matteo Basile is Jill Basile’s son and he said that he believed Petunia enjoyed the book.

Petunia, lazily sprawled on her back while getting her belly rubbed, seemed to agree.

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