HARLINGEN — In the corner of the puppy room, Isabella Esquivel, 9, sits next to the kennels and reads ghost books to the small dogs after school.

Esquivel has been reading to the puppies for two weeks and is part of the Shelter Buddies Reading Club started by the Humane Society.

“I like that mainly they can connect with people, and when they get adopted, they can be well behaved with their family,” Esquivel said.

“They will already know how to connect with people. They pay attention and sit. Mainly, I like getting them ready for their foster or forever homes,” she said.

According to Communications Director Sara Cano, this program has been in the works for a while but has started to become more popular.

“It is a volunteer group for children where they get to come into the shelter after they’ve done an orientation and they get to read to the animals,” Cano said.

“Studies have shown that it is really good for the animals. It suits them and kind of how humans release endorphins by hugging, dogs get that by looking at you,” she said.

According to Cano, weekends are the busiest times at the shelter, but preferably the reading time is done on days when there is not a big crowd around.

“We are trying to implement what we call kennel enrichment. This means putting toys in the kennel or taking them out for a walk to stimulate them,” she said.

“All they really have to look at is confined by the walls of the kennel but that’s why we promote our foster programs and the reading just so that they can get that one on one attention,” Cano said.

In order to get started, volunteers must attend a volunteer orientation. These are held every second Saturday of the month at 2 p.m. at the shelter.

Once orientation has been done, the reading can begin.

According to a letter directed to junior volunteer parents, it is recommended to send children with a cool drink since there is not air conditioning at every station and to let the shelter know the child’s schedule to arrange drop-off and pick-up times.

“I would like more kids to come and read. It is educational and very good for the dogs,” Esquivel said.

MORE INFO

Shelter Buddies Reading Club

Program Rules

– Open to children ages 5 to 10. Parents must be with children at all times. One parent per two children.

– Parents and children must follow all shelter rules. (No touching of animals.)

– Reading times are Sunday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

– Treats can be given upon request.

– Wear closed-toed, rubber-sole shoes as well as name tag at all times.

Humane Society of Harlingen

1106 Markowsky Ave, Harlingen

Monday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Phone number: 956-425-7207