East Sac’s Knott’s Pharmacy has relocated to Carmichael

Knott’s Pharmacy, an East Sac presence on J Street for more than 75 years, has moved its operations to Coyle Avenue in Carmichael as of Jan. 15. But worry not, faithful Knott’s customers, owner Steve Dokimos stresses that it’s business as usual, even from the new surroundings.

Dokimos delivers around 20 prescriptions himself every night free of charge to long-standing customers in East Sac in an effort to show customers that they can still have their orders filled by Dokimos and company.

The pharmacy moved away from its most recent home at 4819 J St. because of a failed attempt to buy the leased property from its owner. Dokimos, who became the owner on Feb. 2, 2002, held a 10-year lease that expired in 2012. After trying unsuccessfully to buy the property, (the owner apparently had no intention of selling) Dokimos settled on paying month-by-month rent for the next year.

After briefly considering moving into the plot next door on J Street, Dokimos decided that his best move would be to shift the pharmacy to Coyle Avenue while he tries to find another plot in East Sac.

“I’m looking for places on H Street, J Street or Folsom Blvd.,” Dokimos said. “I’m working with a leasing agent to look for places.”

Somewhere near the intersection of 51st and L at the old Lucky’s lot would be ideal for Dokimos, as he grew up visiting his grandmother at the intersection when he was just a boy.

Despite moving his base of operations, Dokimos said that many long-time customers have stayed with him.

“I get a lot of visitors from East Sac,” he said. “I probably get more business catering to East Sac than I do around here.”

Despite moving into a former pharmacy space in the St. George Medical Building on Coyle Ave., Dokimos wants East Sac customers, who may be unaware of the pharmacy’s moving, to know that they can still do business with him.

“I want to get the word out that we moved – not closed. We are still open for business.”

As far as getting back in the J Street area, Dokimos said that he would like to get a lease agreement signed within the next three months and hopefully be open for business within another three months.

“We will be back,” he said. “We are dedicated to our clients and we try our hardest for them.”

For more information, Knott’s Pharmacy can be reached at 455-3068.

Jesuit Soccer #1 in Nation

Jesuit soccer was ranked the number one team in the nation this past fall by MaxPreps. Shown here is the MaxPreps Tour of Champions presented by the National Guard. / Courtesy photo

Jesuit soccer was ranked the number one team in the nation this past fall by MaxPreps. Shown here is the MaxPreps Tour of Champions presented by the National Guard. / Courtesy photo

Year in and year out the varsity soccer team at Carmichael’s Jesuit High School is top notch. Some are absolutely dominant, others are just really good. The 2012 version fell into the former category. The Marauders finished the season a ridiculous 27-1-1 and were named the top high school boys soccer team in the nation by MaxPreps, which is essentially the go-to place for everything high school sports.

For securing the nation’s top rank, Jesuit was host to the Army National Guard and MaxPreps founder Andy Beal at Jesuit’s spring sports rally on March 1.

“(The presentation) was pretty cool,” said Jesuit Athletic Director Chris Fahey. “It was the first time that a school in our region was awarded by MaxPreps.”

Along with the recognition of being number one, Jesuit was presented with a banner that will soon adorn the gymnasium as well as a trophy in the shape of a minuteman. More than 14,000 high schools put boys’ and girls’ teams on soccer fields across the country, but only 20 teams (10 boys and 10 girls) will be honored by MaxPreps as part of its Soccer Tour of Champions.

While the 2012 team from Jesuit had all the skill needed to dominate, everyone associated with the team spoke to how tight the guys were as a team.

“They were truly a team. They had a few (college) scholarship players, but the entire team was selfless. They were willing to sacrifice,” said Fahey.

After an early-season 2-0 loss (ironically to Jesuit High School of Portland, OR), the team had a meeting where the players came together and vowed to play better from then on. It must have worked, seeing as how the Marauders won 20 straight games following the meeting.

Jesuit Head Coach Paul Rose was excited about the presentation at the school. First and foremost he saw it as recognition of the effort put in by his players.

“You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t work hard you won’t get it done in the end,” Rose said. “It didn’t matter who on our team scored; it just mattered that we scored and the other team didn’t,” he laughed.

Scoring while not allowing the opposing team to score was something that Jesuit did exceptionally well in 2012. The team allowed just eight balls to cross the line in 29 contests. Jesuit held its opponent scoreless in 23 of those games.

Jesuit was the top-ranked team in MaxPreps’ 2011 soccer standings as well, but it was not one of the six schools recognized during the Tour of Champions. In its second year of inclusion on the tour, soccer has gone from six teams recognized in 2011 to 20 in 2012. The MaxPreps website reads that the teams included on the tour “aren’t just good… or great. They are relentless, tenacious and unstoppable.”

With 82 wins, three losses and five ties over the last three seasons, this may be just the first of many visits to Carmichael for MaxPreps and the Army National Guard.

“It brought a smile to everyone’s face when we won (the award),” Rose said. “We’re glad we could bring it back to our area.”

Former East Sacramento resident Louis F. Breuner played essential roles in East Lawn’s establishment, Breuner’s store

Louis Frederick Breuner once resided in this 45th Street, Fabulous Forties home. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Louis Frederick Breuner once resided in this 45th Street, Fabulous Forties home. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is part seven in a series about the rich history of and associated with East Sacramento’s award-winning East Lawn Memorial Park.

In the history of Sacramento, one of the most recognized surnames is Breuner. And had it not been for one member of that family, East Lawn Memorial Park might not exist today.
That member of the family was Louis Frederick “Lou” Breuner (1869-1947).
In 1904, Lou, who was born in Sacramento on Aug. 15, 1869, purchased 42 acres of the old Newton Booth place, which was previously known as the Twin Oaks Farm.
It was on this property that Lou, with the assistance of other local men, including Fred W. Kiesel and Chauncey H. Dunn, established East Lawn Cemetery, as East Lawn Memorial Park was then known. East Lawn Cemetery was dedicated on April 23, 1905.
Lou also had his home built on a portion of the same property in about 1911.
The Breuner family was best known for its involvement with the John Breuner Co.
John Breuner (1828-1890), who was Lou’s father, was born in Baden, which at that time was part of the German Confederation, which consisted of 39 German states in Central Europe.
John had arrived in California in the early 1850s with dreams of getting rich in gold. But he would instead begin acquiring his greatest wealth making furniture and tools for miners.
In 1856, John opened the first cabinet store in California in a single-story building near the corner of 6th and K streets.
Originally operating his Sacramento business as a one-man workshop where furniture was sold and repaired, John, who resided in a house behind the store, eventually expanded the operation to a much greater level as the business grew along with the city.
Early abstracts of titles of 6th and K streets properties show John’s ownership of a 20-foot parcel alongside the store in 1861, followed by the April 1866 purchase of the property where the store was located. Next, John purchased the corner of 6th and K streets in July 1868.
Despite setbacks from floods, fires and other obstacles, the store continued its development.
And during the progressing early years of this store, the business grew to a staff of two employees.
In 1869, arrangements were made for Breuner’s to manufacture desks and chairs for the Senate and Assembly chambers at the then-under construction state Capitol.
During its history, the company also sold furniture for other notable Sacramento places, including the Governor’s Mansion at 16th and H streets.
In 1884, the company expanded to a larger building at the 6th and K streets site.
With his health declining, John retired from his business while Lou and his older brother, John, Jr., were still in their youth. The two brothers then carried on the business, which by 1890 had a staff of a dozen employees.
Eventually, four generations of Breuner family members would head the operations of their furniture and home furnishing company.
An extensive enlargement of the 6th and K streets store occurred in 1900 with the construction of a three-story building that was built alongside the old Breuner’s building.
The old and new buildings were joined together as one structure and covered with red sandstone – the same material used about a decade earlier in the construction of the nearby post office building at the northeast corner of 7th and K streets.

Former East Sacramento resident Louis Frederick “Lou” Breuner served as president of the John Breuner Co. from 1890 to 1940. Photo courtesy of East Lawn Memorial Park

Former East Sacramento resident Louis Frederick “Lou” Breuner served as president of the John Breuner Co. from 1890 to 1940. Photo courtesy of East Lawn Memorial Park

The company, which opened a store in Oakland in 1906 to accommodate those who had lost their homes in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, later grew to include 12 stores in Northern California and Nevada.
Several years after the opening of the red sandstone Breuner’s building, the L Street portion of the store was converted into a warehouse.
Furthermore an addition to the building along the same side of the building was constructed in 1922, and six years later, the main portion of the building was enlarged, remodeled and given a Spanish architecture-style appearance.
The building later experienced other changes during its history, including the devoting of the entire structure to merchandise.
Breuner’s, which became the oldest and largest furniture firm in Northern California, operated at 6th and K streets until Sept. 20, 1972, following a five-week, “Once in a Lifetime” store closing sale, in which prices were drastically reduced.
Lou, who served as the company’s president from 1890 to 1940, greatly contributed to the success of Breuner’s.
Much of the business’s growth and expansion occurred under Lou’s guidance.
In addition to his contributions to the company, Lou was the first westerner to serve as president of the National Retail Furniture Association, and he was the founder, chief organizer and three-term president of the Retail Furniture Association of California. He served two terms in the first of these named organizations.

Lou was also a charter member of the Sacramento Rotary Club and the Del Paso Country Club, a past president of the Sunset Parlor of the Native Sons of the Golden West and a member of the Sutter Club, the Woodmen of the World and the Union League and Olympia Clubs of San Francisco.
In 1900, Lou became the youngest man called to the presidency of the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce. He was also a founder and advisor of the Sacramento Junior Chamber of Commerce.
Furthermore, Lou belonged to various fraternal organizations, including the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Lodge No. 6, the Washington Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons, the Ben Ali Temple of the Shrine and local Scottish Rite bodies.
His leadership abilities also served him well as grand commander of the Knights Templar of the state of California and commander of the Sacramento Commandery of Knights Templar.

Lou and his wife, Clara F. Louisa Schmidt (1873-1928), who Lou married in Cincinnati, Ohio on June 14, 1893, moved into their new East Sacramento home at 1128 45th St. in about 1923. The house is located two houses to the north of the former home of Alden Anderson, who was featured in the last article of this series.
The couple’s sons, Louis John Breuner (1894-1974), Clarence Henry Breuner (1896-1960), Richard Weston Breuner (1899-1986), Wallace Emerson Breuner (1902-1975) and Robert Alvin Breuner (1909-1969), all held leading roles with the Breuner’s firm.
Following a nearly decade-long illness, Lou passed away at the age of 77 on Monday, May 12, 1947 while he was residing in Carmichael.
Private funeral services in his honor were held in the East Lawn chapel two days later and his remains were entombed inside the East Lawn mausoleum.

Carmichael Park pool: 1955-2013

This proposed aquatic center was presented to the district in 2007. Photo by Lance Armstrong

This proposed aquatic center was presented to the district in 2007. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a series regarding the old Carmichael Park pool, which was recently demolished.

Carmichael Park’s public swimming pool, which provided recreation and relief from the summer heat for thousands upon thousands of people for nearly a half-century, is now nothing more than a memory.
As of last week, the only dominant sign that the pool was ever present at the site was a large hole in the ground.
The demolition of the pool and its accompanying building was far from a surprising event, when considering that the pool had not been used for nearly nine years.
In explaining the closure of the pool, Carmichael Recreation and Park District Administrator Jack Harrison said, “The pool was no longer meeting codes – state codes, county codes. It didn’t meet requirements for disabilities. The liner had been replaced and (the pool) was leaking again. So, structurally, it was failing and couldn’t be maintained. The cost to maintain it (was high). It had limped along. They had done repairs and tried to keep it open for a few years, actually. It just got to the point where it couldn’t be repaired any longer.”
Tracy Kerth, the district’s recreation services manager and the supervisor of the pool for its last 17 years, recalled the final closure of the pool.
“It was sad when we had to close it,” Kerth said. “It closed for the regular season (in 2004) and then we went to the board that fall and announced that we wouldn’t be opened the next year. There was just no way (to continue operating the pool). We did some research on it. The infrastructure was shot. A lot of people said, ‘Are you sure you can’t remodel?’ Everything was wrong with it. We didn’t meet any of the requirements for ADA. It would have been cheaper to build an entire new building. The vessel itself was failing. The pipes were leaking. There was just no way that we could resurrect it.”
Kerth added that even after the closure of the pool, a final study was performed to determine if the pool could be saved.

A large hole in the ground is all that remains of the old Carmichael Park swimming pool. Photo by Lance Armstrong

A large hole in the ground is all that remains of the old Carmichael Park swimming pool. Photo by Lance Armstrong

“The (study) came back that (upgrading the pool and its building to current standards) wasn’t feasible,” Kerth said.
In further pondering the decline of the pool, Kerth recalled that a renovation of the pool was completed in the 1980s. And she noted that the project was a failure in one particular aspect.
“They didn’t do (upgrades to) the infrastructure, and that was a mistake,” Kerth said.
In 2007, Aquatic Design Group of Carlsbad, Calif. performed an analysis of the pool site and then provided their recommendations for an aquatic center that would replace the then-52-year-old pool and its building, which included dressing rooms, a staff room, a first aid room, a pump room, an equipment room and the old snack bar. The original snack bar was later used as a day camp room when a new snack bar opened in a different area in order to save on costs.
The firm’s report was paid for by the Kiwanis Club of Carmichael.
Harrison said that after the report was completed, the district surveyed the community regarding its support of several park projects, including the construction of an aquatics center.
“(The tax assessment) was going to be $48 a year for single family homes and a lesser amount for apartments and commercial and that kind of stuff,” Harrison said. “The results came back that 62 percent of the people said, ‘Yeah, we value our parks.’ The pool – the aquatics center idea – (received) 44 percent. So, it was clear that the community supported the parks’ redevelopment maintenance more than building an aquatics center. So, that kind of killed the idea of going forward with an idea of some kind of a ballot.”
In response to the inquiry of whether any efforts are presently being made toward having an aquatics center constructed at the park, Harrison said, “Currently the (Carmichael Recreation and Park District) Foundation is talking to people about major donations, with the idea being that ‘Is it possible to raise $5 million of private money?’ So, we’ll see. The results of that are expected to be in by the end of April.”
Certainly many people in the community would welcome a new aquatics center, and with a review of the old pool’s history, one can visualize such a center’s potential for both the community and the district.
The pool was one of the earlier features of the park, which was established in 1949.
In July 1953, the Business and Professional Women’s Club acquired sufficient signatures from Carmichael area citizens to indicate the community’s strong desire for a public swimming pool.
It was also during the same month that the Carmichael Park’s board of directors voiced their approval for such a project at Carmichael Park.
A fundraising program was then initiated for the pool, which would be built at a cost of $38,000.
The pool was eventually paid for through funding from door-to-door solicitations ($12,500), an embossed bronze memorial plaque ($10,500), the park board’s budget ($10,000) and special events ($5,000).
Individual donors for the plaque, which would be mounted on an ornate fieldstone near the pool, paid a minimum of $500 each.
The committee in charge of the swimming pool fundraising project consisted of Elmer C. Juergenson (general chairman), Laural C. Ruff (vice chairman), Helen Moody (secretary), Frank J. Hahn (treasurer), Connie Ryan, Walter Lage, Ida Ball, Wim C. Schoof, Gene Lynch and Edna Clark.
Commencement on the construction of the 50-foot by 100-foot blue granite pool, which represented $30,000 of the project, began during the summer of 1954.
The park’s swimming pool, which was once accompanied by a wading pool, was opened in time for the following year’s swim season.

How the arts enrich Arden/Carmichael area schools

When is the last time you heard math students singing a popular song as a class during a fraction lesson? Or building an ancient city out of clay during history class? These are just a few ways teachers in San Juan Unified are changing the way their students learn.

The San Juan Unified School District is proud to have preserved the arts throughout its schools. In a quest to continue to find new and effective ways of teaching, Visual and Performing Arts coordinator Craig Faniani has spearheaded an effort called Arts Integration, and it’s already seen a lot of interest from principals, staff, teachers and students alike.

Teachers are using music, sculpting, drawing, drama, technology, movement and a variety of other types of art to engage students and create a different and effective learning environment. Arts Integration is much more than the typical ‘art project.’

Del Dayo and Fulton-El Camino Youth soccer clubs draw hundreds of kids to the sport

Many of us played soccer as youths, whether it was because we showed a genuine interest, a particular knack for the game, or (more likely) our parents just wanted us out of the house in the afternoons. Luckily for local children (and parents), there are numerous places in which to partake in the sport these days.

In fact, soccer is by a wide margin the most popular youth sport in Sacramento, according to Shane Singh, president of the Pocket Area’s very own Greenhaven Soccer Club.

The Sacramento Youth Soccer League (SYSL), had an impressive 7,000+ children ages 4-18 play soccer for its numerous clubs in 2012, according to Singh. The SYSL is comprised of 15 soccer clubs within the Greater Sacramento area, some of which cater to our area.

When asked why soccer is the dominant sport in our area, Singh said “It’s designed for younger kids to play. Four-year-olds can’t really play Little League, but they can play soccer.” He also pointed to the fact that soccer entails constant participation, whereas other sports can have long lulls where some kids don’t do anything, which can lead to boredom.

In addition to keeping the sometimes fleeting attention of younger children, Singh talked about the benefits that soccer and youth sports in general have for youths.

“(Sports) keep kids out of trouble. There have been studies that suggest kids who play sports do better in school and are more focused in the classroom. It also helps them to develop life skills, like how to work in a team environment,” he said.

While there are players in most of the SYSL clubs all the way up to 18 years of age, Singh explained that the majority of the players are between ages 6-12. And while he estimates that 90% of soccer seasons within the SYSL run between August and December, the other 10% play a longer season and some of the competitive teams even play year-round.

Singh also estimated that 90% of kids play on strictly recreational soccer teams. If your child is a soccer star who wants to try his hand (or rather feet) at competitive soccer, many of the clubs within the SYSL offer competitive clubs which are generally more expensive, require more travel and often have longer seasons.

August is still a ways off, but registration for some leagues can begin as early as March. Check the end of this article for information about leagues in your area and find out when each club handles registration.

There is rarely a time when children are turned away from participating, but occasionally it does happen if there are too many kids and not enough coaches. Volunteer coaches are much needed, according to Singh.

While not affiliated with the SYSL, the Carmichael-based Del Dayo Soccer Club offers a wide range of teams for your young soccer star. In 2012, Del Dayo soccer fielded 20 teams and more than 350 players. Del Dayo Soccer Club is affiliated with the California Youth Soccer Association (CYSA). For information about registration and other inquiries, visit deldayosoccer.net.

In the Arden area, check out Fulton-El Camino Youth Soccer. For information about enrolling your child, visit fecsoccer.org. Also in the Arden area is St. Ignatius Soccer Club. The club can be reached at 916-649-9645.

‘Where the Wild Things Are’: An open juried art show to benefit the Effie Yeaw Nature Center

“Painting Where the Wild Things Are”, an open juried art show at the Sacramento Fine Arts Center benefiting the Effie Yeaw Nature Center. May 7-25, 2013. Regional artists will submit paintings, sculpture and textile art of the American River Parkway and the wild things that live there. Judge is Maria Winkler. There will be a Second Saturday Reception on May 11, 2013, 5:30-8:30 p.m. This art show is a preview of the Gala and Art Auction to be held at the Effie Yeaw Nature on June 8, 2013. Tickets $50. Call 489-4918. Sacramento Fine Arts Center is located at 5330B Gibbons Drive, Carmichael. Phone is 971-3713 and website is  www.sacfinearts.org; entry days for this SFAC Art Exhibit are Friday April 19, 1–5 p.m. and Saturday April 20, 11a.m.–3p.m.

Fundraising Event for the Carmichael Elks Charities

A Free Electronic Waste Drop off will be held March 9. Participants won’t even have to get out of their cars. On site shredding will be done by Shred-It for $5 a box donation requested.

Elks National Foundation’s mission is to help the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks build stronger communities by offering college scholarships, funding programs that build the character and competence of youth, serving and honoring veterans.

For more information, call Diane at 916-955-4097

E-Waste Sponsored by CEAR, INC , California Electronic Asset Recovery, a California state approved electronic waste collector and recycler. www.cearinc.com

We will accept: monitors, televisions, desktop and notebook PCs, VCRs, stereo equipment, CD’s, speakers, keyboards, mice, PDAs, digital cameras, zip drives, telephones, cell phones, printers, copiers, laser and multifunction scanners and fax machines, microwaves, small household appliances such as toasters, mixers & blenders, vacuum cleaners with the dust bag removed

We cannot accept: Large Household Appliances (i.e. refrigerators, washers, dryers, etc.)Furniture, Hazardous Household Waste including batteries, car batteries, paint, pesticides, used oil, cleaning supplies, fluorescent light bulbs, water heaters, tires etc.
For optimal security, CEAR INC shreds all computer hard drives. The secure facility is monitored 24/7 by surveillance cameras.

The Carmichael Elks lodge boasts a membership of over 1300 civic-minded citizens of Carmichael and adjoining communities. The Carmichael Elks has organized and funded the annual Carmichael Fourth of July Parade for the past 53 years.

The Elks provide annual award scholarships at the local, state, and national levels. The organization sponsors activities such as the Elks Hoop Shoot, drug awareness programs, Scouting, Little League, summer camps and in home treatment for children with disabilities.

Many of the Elks charitable programs are funded in part by the Elks National Foundation, a perpetual fund, having assets exceeding $600 million. Our Lodge collaborates with many local charities and service clubs that service similar clients, thereby increasing the benefits for the community.

The Carmichael Elks Lodge facilities sit on 9.8 acres that include some amenities such as a swimming pool, softball diamond, RV Facilities, two ballrooms, a dining room, a gazebo for weddings, wine tasting events or ice cream socials. We have banquet and conference room rentals available for parties and events with full catering available.

Join us for our Membership Drive Spaghetti Dinners every Monday night starting 5 p.m. until it’s gone! Bingo in our ballroom is open to the public every Monday night starting at 6:30 p.m.

Visit our lodge facility and ask for a tour. Office hours are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The office can be reached by calling 489-2103. For information on room and catering rentals call our Banquet Department at 916-484-7698.

If you go:
What: E-waste drive to benefit Carmichael Elks charities
Where: Carmichael Elks Lodge, 5631 Cypress Ave.
When: Saturday, March 9 from 9-1 p.m.
Cost: Free Drive through Drop off for E-Waste, Donation Requested for Shredded Materials

Carmichael Triplets Earn Eagle Scout Award

Sunday evening, February 10th Patrick, Sean and Kenneth Jagerson were awarded the Eagle Scout Award.  They are all members of Troop 376, located at the LDS Church at Garfield and Locust.  It is the highest award in Scouting and only about 4 percent of the Scouts who enter accomplish it.
The ceremony opened with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer. They are administered the Eagle Scout Oath including all adults who have earned the rank, renewing their oath.  The Scouts each pin an “Eagle Pin” on their mother and she in turn pins the Eagle Badge on their uniform. In addition, they receive their Certificates, a Special Eagle Picture from the Troop and their names on the troops “Eagle Plaque”.
To earn the award, each had to advance through the Scouting Ranks of Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, a Minimum of 21 Merit Badges, several of which are required.  Five Merit Badges are for the Start Rank and Ten for the Life Rank.
They also must complete an approved Community Service Project. The projects varied from reconstructing and painting the Del Campo High School Football Stadium visitors bleachers to constructing infrastructure for rain collection barrels at Will Rogers Middle School to constructing a large covered kiosk sign at Will Rogers Middle School. Each Scouts Eagle Project called for various skills including ability, leadership, community service and more.
A reception followed the ceremony.

Something to Bark About: Carmichael Library Helps Kids Learn Reading Through “Read to a Dog” Programs

Eddy – therapy dog of Lend A Heart President Barbara Street – listens while a young reader practices their reading.

Eddy – therapy dog of Lend A Heart President Barbara Street – listens while a young reader practices their reading. // Photo courtesy of Maryann Farmar/Lend A Heart.

Every Tuesday, about 25 children ranging in ages from five to 10 come to the Carmichael Library after school to work on their reading skills.

They’re not reading to a librarian, or a tutor or a teacher. Instead, they’re reading to one of the trained therapy dogs that calmly sits for an hour and lets the children read to them.

“It’s really fun and the kids just love it,” says Shelley Andrews, branch supervisor for the Carmichael Library. “Everybody enjoys it – the kids love it, the staff loves it because we love to see the dogs, the owners of the dogs love it, and of course the dogs love it with all the attention they’re getting. It’s just really fantastic.”

Read to Rover

Carmichael Library began offering what they call the “Read to Rover” program back in 2007 when Carmichael resident Ellen Wildfeuer presented the idea to the library. A retired nurse, Wildfeuer knew of the benefits of pet therapy, and had a dog that had gone through the process of becoming a certified therapy dog.

To start the program, Wildfeuer used her connections to therapy dog associations to find other volunteers to bring their therapy dogs to the program. Currently they have 13 teams of therapy dogs and handlers that rotate coming to the library each week, with at least seven of those teams coming every single week, she says. “In 2011, we donated almost 2,000 hours of volunteer time,” Wildfeuer adds.

Carmichael Library is one of five branches of Sacramento Public Library that offers a “read to a dog” program. Another is Belle Cooledge Library in Land Park, which has been offering their “Read to a Dog” program for about three years and is currently held the last Tuesday evening of each month, according to Youth Services Librarian Donna Zick.

Zick says they can have upwards to 30 children at each monthly session, who have the opportunity to read to one of five to 10 therapy dogs. She says the focus is on kids in grades kindergarten through fourth grade, “because we know now that’s an important marker for kids’ reading levels and we want them to be reading at that stage and want them to be fluent and comfortable with reading.”

ReadToDog_Carmichael.jpg: “Read to Rover” volunteer Cathy French and her therapy dog, Kalie, listen to a young reader. // Photo courtesy of Ellen Wildfeuer.

ReadToDog_Carmichael.jpg: “Read to Rover” volunteer Cathy French and her therapy dog, Kalie, listen to a young reader. // Photo courtesy of Ellen Wildfeuer.

Belle Cooledge’s program is run by volunteers through Lend A Heart Lend A Hand Animal-Assisted Therapy. According to President Barbara Street, Lend A Heart began in 1987 and is an organization of volunteer therapy dogs, cats and rabbits and their handlers that serve hospitals, assisted living centers and memory care centers. Street says Lend A Heart had started a “Read to a Dog” program at Rancho Cordova Library nine years ago, and the success of that program caught the attention of Belle Cooledge Library, who then her to start the program at their library.

Relaxed & Fun

So how does a program like this work?

At Belle Cooledge Library, Street says the dogs are in large dog beds in a circle in the children’s corner of the library. She says the hour normally starts with the children petting the dogs, then they select a book they want to read and a dog they want to read it to. “Sometimes two children will read to the same dog, sometimes they’ll just rotate around the room or find the one dog that they really want to spend more time with,” she adds.

A similar situation happens at Carmichael Library, where the therapy dogs and their handlers are in the library’s community room. Andrews says once a child signs up for the session, they can select a book they would like to read or bring their own book, then sit down and read to a dog. Once they are finished, they can sign up again to read to another dog. “Many times they come in and read to two or three dogs,” she adds.

And during this time, Zick says parents are able to sit by to watch or visit with other parents while their child is practicing their reading. “It’s a very relaxed environment,” she adds.

A Lend A Heart volunteer and therapy dog work with a young reader at the “Read to a Dog” program at Belle Cooledge Library. // Photo courtesy of Maryann Farmar/Lend A Heart.

A Lend A Heart volunteer and therapy dog work with a young reader at the “Read to a Dog” program at Belle Cooledge Library. // Photo courtesy of Maryann Farmar/Lend A Heart.

Learning Curve

Many parents may be asking how can a child improve their reading skills by reading to a dog?

First off, Street says it gives children an opportunity to practice their reading in a relaxed, non-classroom environment with a non-judgmental companion. “It’s more of building that really good feeling about reading and then being able to sit there and read out loud to a dog that doesn’t care if you mispronounce word or is not judging you if you’re reading too slow,” she explains.

Wildfeuer agrees, and says this is a fun way for children who have difficulty reading to gain personal confidence. “It’s an enhancement of how the children are learning to read in school in a less structured, more fun, atmosphere,” she adds.

Zick says she has seen the positive impact of the program through a seven year old boy who when he came to his first program did not want to participate, saying he didn’t feel he could read well and didn’t like to read. “He was there the whole hour reading to the dogs, just completely engrossed in it,” she recalls. “He had convinced himself he wasn’t a good reader. Reading is just practice, so this is just another way to practice.”

Although the children are there to read to the dogs, Wildfeuer says the dog handlers are there to help if a child asks for it. “We’ll tell the kids if they need help, let us know and we’ll help them sound out a word,” she adds.

Plus children who participate in the Read to a Dog program can also learn about how to properly behave around animals and how to be more comfortable around dogs, says Andrews. She says the therapy dogs range in sizes from little lap dogs to Great Pyrenees, so for some kids it takes a while for them to be comfortable around the larger dogs. “But they’re all learning after they come for a while and they start feeling comfortable reading to the big dogs, so that’s also a very positive part of it,” Andrews says.

The Read to Rover program at Carmichael Library is held every Tuesday from 3:30-4:30pm. The Read to a Dog program at Belle Cooledge Library is held the fourth Tuesday of each month from 6:30-7:30pm. For more information on these programs, visit www.saclibrary.org.