WellesleyWeston Magazine

FALL 2012

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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Kids, Dogs, and Books This morning Susie, reluctant to leave her grandmother, but motivated by her desire to play with Luna, follows us to a bright room with pil- lows on the floor. When we're both seated, Luna snuggles up next to Susie and nudges her head onto Susie's lap. Susie giggles and pats Luna's silky ears. Then she opens the Dr. Seuss book and turns it so Luna can see the pictures. She stumbles at first, looks up at Luna, who thumps her tail in response to Susie's attention and rolls over hop- ing to be scratched. No one corrects Susie. She strokes Luna's ears again, gets a smile from me, and continues to read. This time with a little more confidence. Amy Benjamin and her Rhodesian ridgeback, Thabo, another team at the library, had just the opposite experience. She describes a small six- year-old girl named Emily with straight dark hair, who came into the library for the reading program clutching three books. But the minute she got there, it became clear she'd decided this was a bad idea. She hid behind her mother's legs saying, "This is too many books." In that particular case, Amy made a flash decision to invite Emily's mother and her younger brother to join them—the general rule is to leave parents and siblings outside, but there are always exceptions. With the mother's urging, all three of them trooped in and sat down on the puffy pillows. Emily started flipping though one of the books, and then snuggled her body up against Thabo, who was lying peacefully on the floor. When Emily put down the first book she said, "I'm going to read another one." Then when Emily picked up her third book, she started reading with- out hesitation. As they all got up to leave, the mother, wide eyed, whis- pered to Amy, "I've never seen her read like that." It's no secret that dogs have been helping people for centuries, guarding flocks, tracking, hunting, doing search-and-rescue missions, 104 leading the blind, as well as assisting the deaf and physically chal- lenged. But recent studies show that dogs actually contribute to the emotional health of humans. A 2010 Wall Street Journal article reports that "a few minutes of stroking a pet dog decreases cortisol, the stress hormone in both the human and the dog. It also increases prolactin and oxytocin, hormones that govern nurturing and security, as well as serotonin and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters that boost mood." Apparently even Sigmund Freud sometimes kept a Chinese Chow named Jofi in his office during his sessions because he noticed "that patients would respond more openly and candidly when Jofi was pres- ent." Jofi, he said, "had a calming effect, particularly on children." Professor Rebecca Johnson, of the University of Missouri, points out in the same article that a dog's effect on people is chemical, not WellesleyWeston Magazine | fall 2012

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