Children’s best “Friends” regulars at Deptford library

Ryan Lawrence, The Sun
Maya takes a break from reading with kids to try to look cool with his shades. Maya is one of the regular dogs that appears at FURever as Friends events.

If you’re looking for something to do on a weekday night this fall, as the wintry temperatures creep in, the sun goes down early, and the outside activities are limited, why not visit your local library on a night when kids and dogs come together for a worthy cause?

The Deptford Free Public Library hosts FURever as Friends twice a month, the second and fourth Tuesdays, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The hour-long event promotes reading literacy for children of all ages with the help of therapy animals.

“I just think it’s a really fun way to bond with people, to get together, to read, meet people’s pets,” said Woodbury native Lisanne Waters, who brings her therapy dog, Trinka, to the library. “It’s just a warm, cozy kind of feeling. The kids enjoy it, it’s good for literacy so there’s a purpose behind it. It helps them in learning to read, but in a fun way.”

Ryan Lawrence, The Sun
Shakeira Bagby and her son Quinton Davis, who turns one this month, hang out with Lisanne Waters and her dog, Trinka, at a FURever as Friends night at the Deptford Free Public Library. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

“It’s much more fun,” 10-year-old Erin Mays, a fifth grader at Shady Lane Elementary School, said of reading to animals, which on a recent night included three dogs and two rabbits.

FURever as Friends is a nonprofit organization with volunteers in Gloucester, Salem, Camden and Cumberland counties who give back to the community with the help of their certified pets. Like 9-year-old Maya, who follows Megan Haase around to libraries, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities.

“She loves it,” Haase said, speaking for her dog, who decided to wear sunglasses to impress the kids. “(I got involved when) my grandfather was really sick. He had Alzheimer’s, shingles and Parkinson’s, and I wanted to train her before he passed away. But he went down too fast. But she’s so mellow, that I wanted to do something with her.”

Ryan Lawrence, The Sun
Sisters Andrea and Victoria Loreno, who attend Shady Lane Grade School, read to Zoey on a FURever as Friends night at the Deptford Free Public Library. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

Among the goals for the FURever as Friends library events include helping to develop social skills and verbal communication among children and adults who may feel anxiety or discomfort with human interaction, building self-esteem and confidence in shy and insecure readers, and enhancing relaxation while reducing anxiety for people of all ages.

“I started doing it for myself, just to get out,” said Mary Woerner of Swedesboro, who brought her Cavalier mix, Zoey, to the Deptford Free Public Library earlier this month. “It’s a relief from stress. I found out about (the organization) through the owners. And I didn’t a have a dog. I found a dog five years ago, she’s my first dog. She finally passed her test. It’s a fun activity for the kids.”

For more information and specific event times, visit DeptfordPublicLibrary.org. For more information on FURever as Friends, email them (info@FUReverAsFriends.org), check out their website at FUReverAsFriends.org, or like them on Facebook.

Ryan Lawrence, The Sun
A scene from a FURever as Friends night at the Deptford Free Public Library. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)
Ryan Lawrence, The Sun
FURever as Friends pooch Zoey hangs out with one-year-old Quinton Davis and his mom, Shakiera Bagby. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)
Ryan Lawrence, The Sun
Siblings Ainsley and Aiden Guinter hang out with Zoey at a FURever as Friends night. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)
Ryan Lawrence, The Sun
Siblings Taylor and Tyler Santos meet Zoey. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)
 (Ryan Lawrence, The Sun)
Erin Mays, Maura Mays, Ainsley Guinter, and Aiden Guinter hang out with rabbits (Juliet and Sebastian) and with Megan Haase and her dog, Maya, at a FURever as Friends night at the Deptford Free Public Library. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)
 (Ryan Lawrence, The Sun)
A scene from a recent FURever as Friends at the Deptford Free Public Library. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)
 (Ryan Lawrence, The Sun)
Megan Haase, her dog, Maya, rabbits Juliet and Sebsatian and volunteer Connor Spring at a FURever as Friends night at the Deptford Free Public Library. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

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