NELSONVILLE — With a the sound of a friendly “woof,” Minnie, a service dog, entered Nelsonville Public Library’s meeting space and greeted members of the newly established Next Chapter Book Club.
Athens County Public Libraries launched the new book club earlier this year as an outlet for individuals both with and without developmental disabilities to learn and connect through literacy with two clubs set up — one in Nelsonville led by Deborah Parsons, and the other in Athens, led by Debbie Schmieding.
The group’s first book, Adalyn’s Clare, by Karin Dunn Buron, focused on a young girl with Aspergers syndrome and how her therapy dog, Clare, works to help her live her daily life, library communications officer, Becca Lachman said, with some chapters written from the dog’s point of the view.
To show book club members what a real-life therapy dog might be like, Nelsonville resident, Patrick Maltba brought in Minnie, a 9-year-old Border Collie service dog who has spent the last seven years by his side helping him navigate through post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.
Bill Porter, a book club member, prepared a list of questions to ask Maltba about Minnie, wanting to know how she’s helpful to him, how long it takes to train her, and if she can be a regular dog outside of being a service dog.
Maltba and Minnie spent 400 hours of training getting to know each other, he said to the group. And, when Minnie wears her service vest, she knows she’s “on the clock” and working. Whenever Malta takes it off of her, like he did at the library, she’s just like any other dog and hangs out, he explained.
Bringing Minnie in to the book club allowed them to see the real-life workings of the story, Parsons said.
“It’s not pretend,” she said. “People really do have Minnies and Clares and it really works.”
The book club also occurs in a public space and encourages interaction between individuals with developmental disabilities with anyone passing through the library, as stated in a library news release.
“Literacy is not just the mechanics of reading,” Parsons stated in the release. “It is the enjoyment of gaining ideas and sharing them with others who also want a bigger life. That’s the ‘why’ of book clubs. Book clubs are for everyone.”