Pupper West Side: Luna is Passionate About Literacy and Dental Hygiene

By A. Campbell

Name: Luna

Age: 6 years old

Breed: Well, we conducted a DNA test – just on a whim, you know – and it said that I’m 3/8 Lab, 1/8 Chow, 1/8 German Shepherd, 1/8 Great Pyrenees, and a little bit “other.” The results were very interesting because I’m much smaller than most of those breeds.

Profile/history: Mom and Dad were living in Washington, D.C. at the time they found me. They were volunteering with City Dogs Rescue, a D.C.-based rescue organization. They would volunteer by walking pups like me who were up for adoption. And one day, after they’d been considering adopting a dog, they happened to get matched with me for a walk. I hadn’t even been listed on the organization’s website yet, because I’d just come from Tennessee the day before. The organization didn’t have any information on me yet, even my weight. Mom and Dad immediately loved me but because their building had a weight limit for dogs, they kept picking me up to try to guess my weight. Not purely scientific, but you know, in a pinch. Luckily, I passed all the tests and the rest is history!

Daily routine: Well, I recently welcomed a baby sister – she’s about 8 months old now – so in the morning when the baby is waking up, we’ll all enjoy a little snuggle time. Afterward it’s a morning walk, often to Central Park. I might do some off-leash exploring in that area with the wood chips between West 86th and 87th Streets, right near the entrance of the park. In the afternoon, my walker comes by, and then in the evenings I usually eat a late-ish dinner while Mom and Dad are brushing their teeth. Pretty run of the mill dog stuff, I suppose. However, my most important activities tend to happen on weekends. Our family is very passionate about volunteering and I serve as a therapy dog at St. Agnes Library. I spend my time there helping children who are nervous about reading aloud to develop their skills and confidence.

Loves: I really enjoy taking long hikes with my family. It’s such great exercise and I enjoy being surrounded by beautiful scenery. Of course, my greatest love – aside from my family – is going to the library and volunteering with the reading program. I love kids and Mom says I’m very intuitive. I think I can sense when someone needs reassurance or comfort, and that’s part of what makes me a great reading helper.

Does not love: Boxes. I can-not. They are horrifying. Deliveries to the apartment are so fraught and anxiety-producing. Perhaps the only thing worse is…balloons. *Whimpers*

Favorite store/business on UWS: My favorite warm weather activities include sitting outside at Upper West Side restaurants and enjoying their patios. Two of my absolute favorites are Pizzeria Sirenetta and Saravana Bhavan.

Favorite park spot: I think the wood chip area is probably my favorite.

Favorite treat: Virbac dental chews are a favorite treat. I’m the rare pup who is incredibly dedicated to dental hygiene. I just love getting my teeth brushed. When mom takes my toothbrush out, I get so excited. Proper dental care helps my breath stay fresh and vanilla-minty.

Tell us more about this library volunteer program: I volunteer as a therapy dog at St. Agnes Library. The idea behind the work is that kids who are a little bit shy or nervous reading out loud can practice reading to dogs like me. I’m not at all judgmental and try to encourage them with my calm and comforting presence. Sometimes they like to pet me while they read because it helps them relax and calm down. I usually work with kids ages 6 to 10 years old, but occasionally a younger child will come in. If they’re too young to read, they might just enjoy talking to me about the pictures that they see. If a young reader encounters a difficult word, my Mom might encourage them to explain what it means to me to help them with comprehension.

Reading is such a joy. No one should feel nervous about it and I’m am delighted to have this opportunity to help them practice such an important skill. By now, I’ve probably worked with about 60 children. Wow! I certainly encourage other kind pups to volunteer as well. Maybe its with a literacy program or at a hospital. There are so many opportunities in New York. Spend a little bit of your free time helping others.

Read all our Pupper West Side interviews here!

If West Side Rag readers are interested in becoming pet owners, we encourage you to consider adopting or volunteering to be a foster parent with one of the many shelters and nonprofits based in and around New York City. These include but aren’t limited to: Muddy Paws Rescue; Animal Lighthouse Rescue; NYC ASPCA; Humane Society of New York; Bideawee; Social Tees; and Animal Haven.

COLUMNS | 11 comments | permalink
    1. Judy says:

      I really enjoy this series. Thank you for taking the time to write up these profiles. They are a delight.

    2. Sarah says:

      What a civic-minded pup you are, Luna! The UWS is lucky to have you.

    3. Bruce E. Bernstein says:

      beautifully done. what a smart dog!

    4. Teddy says:

      Not only is Luna a beautiful pup, she gives back to her community! Thanks Luna and props to her folks for training her as a therapy dog, and the great volunteer work they’re doing. It doesn’t get much better than dogs and reading. 🐕 📖

    5. She looks like a really sweet and lovely dog. And kind, too. Lucky you.

    6. Tania Isenstein says:

      You are an inspiration Luna! Great piece!

    7. J says:

      Luna is a beauty.

      But am a little puzzled about a therapy dog at the St. Agnes for children who are shy about reading out loud?
      Being shy about reading out loud is pretty normal…
      Plus at this point, local families are prettty affluent and generally have access to services if needed.

      If being shy about reading out loud necessitates therapy dog support, then hopefully these services are at libraries that serve under-served kids, kids who don’t speak English, kids in low-income neighborhoods who have less access to services.
      Wondering if there are volunteer therapy dogs serving these communities?

      • Sarah says:

        St. Agnes runs multiple classes for adult learners of English, as well as preparation for the citizenship exam, so there’s clearly a demand for services. There are plenty of poor people still on the UWS; people just don’t want to see them.

        • J says:

          There absolutely are poor people.
          But as housing is so expensive and more people are pushed out, there are fewer and fewer around the St. Agnes area. And families with limited income have less ability to travel for resources.

          A similar issue it seems to me is “park inequality”. Support for and free activities in parks that are in proximity to affluent neighborhoods – but not in areas that really need. Not easy, for example, for a family to travel from the Bronx to a kids fair in Riverside Park…

          • Mira says:

            This program (where kids read to dogs) is available at libraries throughout the city. You can call your local library to see if it’s available, and if not, request it. It’s called the R.E.A.D. Program and is available via NY Therapy Animals.

    8. Jan says:

      Let’s hear it for the therapy dogs.
      However if I see more dogs on the UWS
      We’ll have to move out. The City is going
      To the dogs literally And so many irresponsible
      Owners who do not know where the curb is.
      Between the dramatic increase in dogs
      And bicycles our hood is under siege!
      Yikes! And at these prices!