Animal lovers and bookworms can enjoy their two passions and give back to the community.
The Dog Days of Summer fundraiser will be hosted by the Human Animal Bond in Tennessee program this Friday from 10:30 a.m to 2:30 p.m in Circle Park.
For $5 visitors can receive a hotdog and meet six of the adorable animals that are a part of Human Animal Bond in Tennessee, which was established in 1986 and is made up of representatives from the UT College of Veterinary Medicine and over 400 volunteers from around the community. HABIT dogs visit nursing homes, mental health centers, special needs facilities and hospitals, spreading simple, slobbery love to all that they meet. There are about 70 different programs run by the organization.
Three guest speakers will give presentations on bibliotherapy, canine behavior and how UT is using HABIT animals on campus and in the community in the College of Communications and Information Auditorium.
Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to HABIT's various initiatives, such as Ruff Reading, a program in which HABIT volunteers take their dogs to Knoxville-area schools to read with children.
Donna Silvey, communications specialist for the School of Information Sciences, HABIT volunteer and self-proclaimed "top dog", has been taking her mutt, Boudreaux, to Belle Morris Elementary School since 2008. Silvey said she praises the Ruff Reading program for being simple and effective.
"You think about all the federal dollars that have to be spent on reading programs, and then there's this free dog that comes in and makes magic happen," said Silvey, with the magic-maker himself, Boudreaux, sticking his black and white head out inquisitively from underneath her desk.
Boudreaux is a black and white dog of questionable breed rescued from Hurricane Katrina in 2004. Silvey claims he will be the "star of the show" at this Friday's fundraiser. Perfectly pettable, laid-back and lovable, it's hard not to fall in love with Silvey's "lucky Cajun." And this is precisely what makes Boudreaux a perfect HABIT dog.
According to Silvey, Boudreaux has made an enormous impact on the children in the Ruff Reading program and can calm down even the most nervous reader. Through gentle nudges and prodding, he encourages children to be more confident when reading aloud.
Through fundraisers like Dog Days of Summer, HABIT hopes to acquire enough money to buy one book for every child involved in Ruff Reading, which amounts to about 2,000 books.
Recently, HABIT dogs started leaving their prints on the UT campus. During exam week, the HABIT hounds are brought to Hodges Library to calm the frazzled nerves of stressed students. Also, this Friday's fundraiser will be used to spread the word about the new Gary R. Purcell reading room in the Communications Building, where UT faculty and staff will be able to hang out with HABIT dogs every other Wednesday, starting this September.
Ruth Sapp, the East Tennessee Program Coordinator for HABIT said the canine companionship programs work so well because of the positive energy that the dogs bring.
"The Ruff Reading program makes students more confident because they have a friend with unconditional positive regard that they get to see every week," Sapp said."The goal of HABIT is to end human suffering wherever we can, and hopefully make a bright spot in someone's day."
HABIT is an amazing program, fully dependent on community donations and support. Come by Circle Park this Friday, pay the $5 admission fee.