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Beautiful things can happen when kids read to dogs.

The kids strengthen their reading and empathy and the dogs learn to trust.

Beautiful things can happen when kids read to dogs.

This is the kind of story that will make you want to replicate this program near you.

We all know what's at stake for dogs in shelters. Their ability to connect with the humans who might adopt them is the main thing that can determine what fate befalls them.

The ASPCA estimates that each year close to the same number of pets in shelters get euthanized (31%) as get adopted (35%). The rest are reunited with owners whom they've gotten separated from.


What if that adoption-to-euthanization ratio could be significantly altered by helping animals become better socialized with people?

That's what makes the new Shelter Buddies Reading Program at the Humane Society of Missouri so crucial and brilliant.

"Can we do 'Frog and Toad Are Friends' next, pretty pleeeeeeease?" All images by Humane Society of Missouri, used with permission.

By pairing kids with hearts of gold with the pups who need their attention, it could be possible to change the outcomes for a lot of these dogs.

The program was just introduced in December 2015, and the shelter holds trainings for it once per month. Kids, ages 6-15, go through 10 hours of training to read dogs' body language for stress or nervousness. When they've completed the training, they're ready to sidle up next to a dog's room and begin connecting through reading, which they can come back and do as often as they like.

"Read it again! Read it again!"

The goal is to create dogs that are more adoptable AND help children exercise their empathy.

Jo Klepacki, the program's director at Humane Society of Missouri, said in an interview with The Dodo, "We wanted to help our shy and fearful dogs without forcing physical interaction with them to see the positive effect that could have on them."

"Did you see this?!" This kid is so excited to show this puppy the literary world, and the puppy is digging it.

Klepacki also noted the positive effects for their tiny-human participants:

"It's encouraging children to develop empathy with animals. It's a peaceful, quiet exercise. They're seeing fearfulness in these animals, and seeing the positive affect they can have. It encourages them to look at things from an animal's perspective. That helps them better connect with animals and people in their lives."

This story is clearly riveting.

Obviously this program should be a thing at every shelter in every city across America.

A good idea is a good idea. The proof will come over time, but not everything needs to be quantified and measured before it's implemented. It's a low-cost way to help both pets and people. If it turns out to be successful in getting more dogs adopted (and I suspect it will), the program will be even more likely to spread.

But even if all it ever does is improve the quality of life for these animals while they're in the shelter, that's worthwhile in itself.

Every animal lover and reading enthusiast needs to see this and consider bringing the program to their own local shelters!

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon