Lola’s ears perk up as she hears that familiar voice.
“Look, Lola, do you see your mom?” a young boy says as he pats Lola’s back and points up at the face on the television screen.
The boy is one of about a dozen young readers who have gathered at the McLoud Public Library on this day to practice their reading skills with Lola, a trained therapy dog.
The library presents the “Sit, Stay, Read!” program for young readers to read to Lola twice a month, typically the second and fourth Thursday afternoons of the month from 4 to 6 p.m.
This day is a special one, as Lola’s owner, Lacy Spanier, has stayed up late from her post halfway around the world serving as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army. She’s called in via teleconference to visit with the children and see her dog, which is trained by her mother Rhonda Singleton for these sorts of opportunities.
Lola was trained through the Shawnee-based program at The Doggie Spot, which has worked with Pioneer libraries on similar programs in both McLoud and Tecumseh. Lacy got Lola as a rescue dog about five years ago, and Lola will be turning 8 this year.
The dog is patient and gentle with children, even as they sometimes are a little active and excited. She also likes to dress up for her visits.
“She always perks up, she knows the days that she’s going to be coming in to the library,” Singleton says. “And the kids always look forward to how she will be dressed.”
“I like the Wonder Woman best,” a young girl adds.
Multiple libraries throughout the three-county Pioneer Library System of which the McLoud library is part have found success with similar reading to dogs programs over the years. The goal is to give a reluctant reader an environment to read to a non-judgmental audience like Lola. McLoud started offering its series last fall.
On this day, the readers get a little added bonus. Lacy spends about 20 minutes talking with the children, answering a few questions about what her life is like is on the other side of the world, but spending a lot of time talking about her dog.
“It makes me feel good that she’s not lonely,” Lacy told the children. “Thank you for letting her come up there and reading to you, I know it makes my mom happy and it makes me happy. Thank you for helping take care of her.”
Soon Lola will have her owner back home. Spanier has served the past 15 years but will be back to her Choctaw home in the next few weeks, “hopefully forever,” she says.