The tales that wags the dogs

SPCA Read and Relax program is story hour for dogs

Susan Fachie loves animals but she can’t have a pet at home.

To get her ‘fix’ Susan volunteers as a storyteller at the Brant County SPCA and the ears her words fall upon are much fuzzier than those that attend story time at the Brantford Public Library.

 Fachie is a volunteer for the SPCA’s Read and Relax program. Volunteers go to the SPCA shelter every day between noon and 1 p.m. to sit with dogs in the adoption room and quietly read stories to them.

“My husband has allergies so this is very important for me to have the contact with the animals,” Fachie said.

The program was initiated by the Brant County SPCA about two years ago after staff heard about a similar program in another location.

It is meant to relax the dogs and give them some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of the shelter.

“We go to different conferences looking for ways to enrich the stays of the animals that are in our care,” Rose-Anne Camus said. “That was something we learned at a conference, to give them that sort of downtime because it’s really stressful for them being in a caged environment and having people traipse past them all day long.

“We wanted to give them that time where they can relax and be away from the public during the day.”

While they may not understand the words, the dogs do appear to enjoy the company of readers as they spin their tales.

“The dogs love it, they absolutely love it,” Camus said. “We were surprised. We thought we would trial it but what a response we got from the dogs. Some of them fall asleep and some of them you think are just listening because their ears perk up, especially if the reader puts a lot of intonation into it.”

Volunteers choose their own books to bring. Fachie always tries to bring a story about dogs.

“They seem to prefer dog stories,” she said. “Once I sit down and start reading, most of the time the barking subsides and they’ll settle down and hopefully fall asleep. I’m happy if they fall asleep and I can sneak out after without disturbing them.”

Many volunteers will take the dogs for a walk after reading hour. About three volunteers take part in the program Monday through Sunday.

Volunteer positions are still available for Saturday and Sunday spots. Other volunteer positions include dog walkers and cat buddies.

 “We are always looking for more people for the Thrift Store too,” Alex Wolosinecky said. “We have enough volunteers to operate for three days, but looking forward we’d like to have enough to operate for five to six.”

Volunteer positions are also available for lawn maintenance and gardening at the shelter’s Park for Paws.

“We have some really pretty gardens and we have a lot of grass to cut too,” Camus said. “We are always looking for volunteers and if they like gardening and outdoor work, we will be looking for that soon too.”

People interested in volunteering can call the shelter at 519-756-6620 or fill out a volunteer application at

“Being at the shelter is a stressful environment naturally because we have to house (animals) in cages for disease control and for their own safety, but we try to enrich their stay as much as we can,” Camus said.

 “People get a real kick out of our Read and Relax program, they look at you and go ‘really?’ Even when we go out to community visits and we tell them about our program they go ‘I think I’ve heard it all now.’

“It’s a great program and we’re so proud of it.”

Colleen Toms is a general assignment reporter who covers arts, life and news for Brant News. She can be reached at Follow Brant News on Twitter Twitter, and Facebook

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