British Columbia

'Canine library' offers chance to check out therapy dogs

Visitors can sign up for 15-minute time slots at Saturday's event at Emery Barnes Park in downtown Vancouver.

Visitors can sign up for 15-minute time slots Saturday at Emery Barnes Park

Pig, a six-year-old border collie cross, is one of the therapy dogs that will be available Saturday at the canine library. (Roshini Nair/CBC)

For one afternoon this weekend, Vancouver library patrons can borrow a very different kind of library material: a dog.

Patrons can "take out" one of eight dogs at the "canine library" this Saturday for a 15-minute session at Emery Barnes Park downtown. The dogs are specially trained therapy dogs that regularly participate in a children's reading program. 

"They are vetted with all kinds of people and stimuli," said Ashten Black, who oversees the therapy dog program at St. John Ambulance, the organization providing the dogs. 

"Our dogs are non-judgmental. They can put people at ease."

Ashten Black of St. John Ambulance, left, with Candie Tanaka from the Vancouver Public Library, right, visit a library with Pig the therapy dog. (Roshini Nair/CBC)

Candie Tanaka, programming and event coordinator with Vancouver Public Library, says the impetus behind the event is to give people who may not get a chance to interact with dogs a safe opportunity to do so.

"When you get to have some one-on-one time with an animal or human you may not have met before, it may foster some really good conversation," Tanaka said. 

Patrons will also be encouraged to read poetry to the dogs, who are quite fond of the literary form, according to Tanaka. 

"Poetry is nice, short, concise and it has some sort of rhythm that the dogs will appreciate."

The event, a partnership between the Vancouver Park Board, Paws 4 Stories and St. John Ambulance, will take place rain or shine. 

With files from Margaret Gallagher