September 2, 2015
One very thoughtful Pennsylvania woman uses the grief she feels over losing her dog to motivate her toward soothing other animals in need. With children’s books in hand, Sandy Barbabella visits the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society each week and reads to dogs being sheltered there. Upon being noticed by another visitor, a Reddit user known as puglife123, news of this woman’s committed volunteerism has spread like wildfire.
As anyone who’s ever lived through the experience can attest, losing a pet can be as hard as losing a human family member. The joys of constant companionship, the pride of caregiving responsibilities and daily acts of love for a being who returns love unconditionally are things that are all deeply missed once a fur buddy passes away. In honoring the life that was lost, though, there are ways to reshape that grief into something meaningful that others can benefit from.
The Saint Who Reads to Dogs
After having spent 14 wonderful years together, Sandy Barbabella was forced to endure the deep loss of her beloved dog, Angus, who passed away more than a year and a half ago. While she still leaves his bowl and his leash in their respective places inside of her home as a way of honoring his memory, this kind soul needed to do more to help relieve the pain she was suffering. In making the decision to help others, we are warmed by the fact that Sandy Barbabella chose to help dogs languishing in a shelter near her home. By reading children’s books to animals that have been abused, abandoned and lost, Barbabella not only offers attention to pets in need, but she freely confesses that her weekly visits also help her deal with her own grief.
Who Else Reads to Dogs?
Barbabella isn’t the only one who reads to animals. While her effort is unique in that she offers her charity specifically to shelter dogs, programs allowing children to read to dogs have also begun to spread around the country. Young people who are just learning how to read or who are having difficulties in learning are often paired with dogs who offer them a non-judgmental opportunity to read out loud to an appreciative audience. With this in mind, parents may just find that volunteering to read at a local shelter may be the perfect activity to stimulate reading in young children.
Reading to dogs can also be a therapeutic activity for adults. Animal lovers who wish to de-stress and help others in need may find that reading to dogs provides an outlet for both. This can be an especially rewarding activity for those with mobility limitations and who want to remain as active as possible.
Volunteering Makes a Difference
Every person reading this blog clearly has a certain level of compassion for animals. While volunteering to read to dogs might not be for everyone, it may be the perfect activity for some. In addition to loving homes, shelter pets are literally starving for love and attention which can be shared through reading, playtime, daily walks and other activities which add delight to their lives.
While shelter dogs don’t understand what is being read to them, they do understand that someone is providing them with sorely missed attention. Many of these animals come from homes where they are used to people talking to and around them on a daily basis. This life has since been traded for a rather solitary one where they are surrounded by the scent and sounds of different animals and well-meaning staff members who are often just too busy to supply them with consistent one-on-one attention. We are certain that dogs appreciate volunteers like Sandy Barbabella and we are hopeful that many of you reading this blog post will follow in her gracious footsteps.
Do you know someone who reads to dogs? Is this a volunteer activity that you or your family might be able to offer to a shelter in your neighborhood? What do you think about Sandy Barbabella and her commitment to pets forced to live in shelters? We look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments section below.