Story Dog Nitro is looking for a school to visit to help children improve reading skills

HELP: Jill Evans and Nitro are ready and looking for a school to come along to. PHOTO: Laura Telford.
HELP: Jill Evans and Nitro are ready and looking for a school to come along to. PHOTO: Laura Telford.

Lake Cathie's Jill Evans and her lovable pooch Nitro are the first accredited Story Dog couple in the Port Macquarie-Hastings region.

A Story Dog is a dog who comes to visit a school regularly to improve children's reading skills, writing skills and communication in a comfortable environment.

Ms Evans said that Nitro was born to help others but after initial intense training as a therapy dog has changed directions to become a Story Dog.

"Right from the very beginning Nitro was destined to help other people," Ms Evans said.

"He was the pick of his litter to join a unit to train as a therapy dog and then was also the pick of the unit.

"Unfortunately the unit was disbanded but Nitro continued his training and he is now going to be a Story Dog."

Nitro underwent intensive training to become accredited which included getting up close with a range of different people and learning to stay calm under pressure in new environments.

"During his training Nitro had to prove he would remain calm in any circumstance," she said.

"Nitro went and met police officers, went in a fire truck, we had a visit to the seaplane, lots of sporting games and over a lot of different surfaces to ensure nothing would phase Nitro."

CUTIE: Nitro as a seven week old pup was always destined to help others.

CUTIE: Nitro as a seven week old pup was always destined to help others.

The Story Dog idea was started by Leah Sheldon and Janine Sigley who formed the non-profit organisation in 2009 in Murwillumbah, NSW.

They first trialled the program at Murwillumbah East Public School, even though the principal and others were unsure how successful it would be.

"A Story Dog is a special kind of dog who no matter what will sit and listen to children read," she said.

"Unlike reading in front of groups, children who read to a Story Dog know a dog won't laugh if they mispronounce a word. Nitro will just sit and listen no matter how long it takes.

"Nitro is the first dog who has become accredited in the area and we are looking for schools who would love to have Nitro and the Story Dog program come to their school.

"We are looking for a sponsor for Nitro and also a school who would love to have Nitro come in and help with reading time."

To find out more about the Story Dogs program contact Jill on 0499 799 478 or email info@storydogs.org.au.