Bow Wows & Books: Project Canine Dogs Make a Difference!


Therapy dogs bring joy, comfort, a happy face, a wagging tail, and a stable presence. This was on full display when we joined Project Canine at the Northeast branch of the Seattle Public Library on a Sunday. Every Sunday, Project Canine pups provide the perfect audience for young readers and rotate between 5 Seattle Public Library locations during the school year.

“You are doing a great job.

I really like it when you read to me.”


Tessa, Labradoodle and her handler Hailey

Photo by Brigit Stadler, Life as a Voyager Photography

Bow Wows & Books is a Project Canine program that provides young readers with attentive, certified therapy dogs. Each Sunday from 3-4 pm, dozens of children and several dogs fill the library conference room. On this day, Tessa the adorable Australian Labradoodle, Buster the cute little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dudley the cuddly Standard Poodle, Hayley the lounging Leongberger, and Odo the graceful Greyhound all sat patiently waiting for children to join them. Children’s books on different dog breeds, dog stories, and how to care for dogs were lovingly displayed by library staff on a table by the door as families started to arrive.


Photo by Brigit Stadler, Life as a Voyager Photography

Slowly at first, then with more confidence a young girl began to read. Tessa laid her paw on the girl's book and looked intently at her as she tried to find her words. The pup's gaze appeared to say, “You are doing a great job. I really like when you read to me.”

Donna Frindt the visit supervisor that day organized and led the gathering. She has been part of Project Canine for 8 years and her certified therapy pup Dash is a regular at the Ronald McDonald House. She has also served as a board member and is Project Canine's first executive director. She explained that Project Canine started its relationship with the Seattle Public Library by leading sessions at the Greenlake and Northgate branches and has since expanded to include Northeast, Magnolia, and Greenlake. Every Sunday dogs provide a sounding board for dozens of children. During the summer, “read-ins” are held at various branches. *Be sure to check out the Project Canine website for details.


Buster and her handler Kathy

Photo by Brigit Stadler, Life as a Voyager Photography

It is not a requirement to read at this event. Sometimes it takes a little while for children and their families to become accustomed to being around dogs. Dogs are important members of American society and international families have attended in order to help their families become more familiar with how to interact with them.


Tessa and Hailey.

Photo by Brigit Stadler, Life as a Voyager Photography

Hailey one of the youngest Project Canine handlers, was there with her mom and their dog Tessa. After doing some research, Tessa decided to go through the program and become a certified therapy dog team. She and Tessa have been a team for two years.


Project Canine Ricochet on his way to the King County Juvenile Division.

Photo by Seattle Pup Magazine

Project Canine is a local therapy dog non-profit. Founded by Judi Anderson-Wright 15 years ago, Project Canine has grown into one of the largest therapy dog organizations in the Pacific Northwest. Project Canine volunteers partner with not only the Seattle Public Library but also with the Swedish Medical Center’s Oncology Department, the Ronald McDonald House, Evergreen Hospital, Aegis Living, the Ryther Center for Children and Youth, and the King County Juvenile Division.

With their signature purple bandannas, collars, and tags, Project Canine pups can be found throughout the Puget Sound.


Project Canine Silas, posing as a "Husky" on the University of Washington--Seattle Campus. Photo by Seattle Pup Magazine.

Are you interested in having your dog certified as a therapy dog?

First of all, it is important to realize that therapy dogs are very different than service dogs. Service dogs work with one individual and help them navigate their lives. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, are comfortable around strangers who may or may not know how to interact them them. When it comes to determining if your dog has the personality of a therapy dog, the main question you need to ask is “What would my dog really love to do?” If your dog is relaxed in complex situations, i.e. their ears are held in a non-worried manner, their body is not stiff when meeting new people or when experiencing new environments, then your dog may enjoy working as a therapy dog.

There is only one way to find out if your dog is a good fit. Come to a session at Project Canine to get evaluated. Dogs accepted into the program must be certified. Therapy dog certification lasts for two years and teams must be retested every two years in order to be re-certified. As dogs age they may change. Either they used to enjoy the attention and sitting for 45 minutes with new people and have grown weary of the work or when younger they didn’t enjoy sitting still and as they have aged have slowed down and appreciate the attention. It all depends on the dog.


Odo, Greyhound

Photo by Brigit Stadler, Life as a Voyager Photography

According to Judi, the best therapy dog handlers understand that they cannot fully “train” a therapy dog. In other words, therapy dogs have the personality to be a therapy dog or they don’t. There are dogs who are bred specifically for therapy dog traits, but there is no one breed of therapy dog.

Project Canine has anywhere from 175–200 registered therapy dog teams. Some breeds like the Golden Retriever are more recognized as therapy dogs, but there many breeds you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find on the list that make fantastic therapy dogs. Project Canine has registered Dobermans and Pit Bulls who are excellent at their work. There are numerous breeds working with Project Canine including a 175 pound Great Dane and a 4 pound Shih Tzu.


Buster, Photo by Brigit Stadler, Life as a Voyager Photography

Judi shared some advice for dog owners who have dogs who are not suited for the job. “Some dogs just aren’t into it.” She shared her own experience with one of her dogs who did not exhibit the traits. “I knew this wasn’t something he would love to do. So I reached out to a friend with a dog who had the personality, but she didn’t have the time to get it him registered or to take him to sessions. I asked her if I could train/register her dog and she agreed. She appreciated her dog having the extra attention."

Seattle Pup Magazine encourages our readers to support local, dog-centric non-profits. If you have a pup you think would love this type of work, consider joining a Project Canine evaluation session. Donations are another great way to show your support.

We also encourage our readers to support their local library! You can do that by getting a library card and attending library events. You can also volunteer and donate to library non-profit organizations. For Seattlelites check out the Friends of the Seattle Library. For those outside the Seattle area: King County Library Foundation; Sno-Isle Libraries Friends of the Library, Pierce County Library System Friends of the Library. Washington State Libraries is another fantastic library, Washington State Libraries run the Talking Book and Braille Library located in Downtown Seattle.

Love a Dog. Read. Explore. Make a Difference!

**this article brought to you in part by the Capitol Hill Writing Meetup Group--Meet. Sit. Create!

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