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Vancouver Public Library loans out therapy dogs for poetry readings in park

WATCH: You can't own a dog because you live in an apartment or are on the road a lot? No problem, you can borrow one from the Vancouver Public Library. Two of the organizers explain this unique program.

Dog and poetry lovers alike came together Saturday thanks to a Vancouver Public Library program allowing visitors to loan out pooches for short reading sessions.

For 15 minutes at a time, people at Emery Barnes Park in downtown Vancouver were allowed to borrow one of eight therapy dogs from the “Canine Library” and read them their favourite poem, either from their own book or one provided by the library.

“The point of the program is to bring kids and families together and foster conversations in dog parks that are happening around the city,” said Candie Tanaka, the library’s programming and learning event coordinator.

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The dogs, which were provided by the St. John Ambulance therapy dog program, came with handlers who also sat in on the therapy sessions.

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The therapy dog program’s director Ashten Black said the event was also a chance for non-pet owners to get some valuable bonding time.

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“Not everyone in Vancouver can have a dog, so this is a really great opportunity for people to experience that moment of joy, and that non-judgmental moment,” she said.

Black’s own pet, named Pig, was one of the eight dogs available and sat calmly and patiently through reading after reading.

Tanaka said the dogs were trained to ask for their own breaks when they needed them during the two-hour event.

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St. John Ambulance provides therapy dogs to other reading events at libraries around Metro Vancouver, including the Paws 4 Stories program that is aimed at improving children’s reading skills.

The dogs are also available by donation to private events.

The Poetry in Parks program was launched as a pilot project in 2015 as a partnership between the library and the Vancouver Park Board.