Barbara Laskin ’61 of San Jose, Calif., has had a widely varied career, including 10 years as a reports officer with the State Department in the Middle East; a buyer for Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co.; 13 years as the executive director of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers; and her current position as a management analyst with the County of Santa Clara in San Jose, Calif.
But she also finds great satisfaction in performing community service work with her canine buddies, Julie and Bud. The black standard poodles and certified therapy dogs put smiles onto children’s faces at the San Jose Family Shelter and area libraries. The dogs went through the Furry Friends Pet Assisted Therapy program and were certified because of their temperament, disposition, health and good behavior.
Julie, whose full name is Alexander Ragtime’s Juliet, and Bud, whose full name is Tanqueray Black Label, visit different places to play with children and make them happy.
Julie, age 12, visits the San Jose Family Shelter, a temporary housing facility for families in transitions. There is another visiting dog there, a Jack Russell terrier, and the children enjoy watching the two dogs play tag.
“The families enjoy this little touch of home as many of them had to relinquish their family pets,” Laskin says. “They have commented what these visits mean to them. There are about a dozen dogs on this team, all of whom interact off-leash with each other and the children.”
Julie is a playful dog and not only runs around and makes people laugh, but also encourages children to read. Julie is a Furry Friend Reading Buddy and visits a local library so children can practice reading to her.
“The children line up eagerly waiting for a turn to read to one of the dogs, sometimes reading to more than one dog,” Laskin says.
The handsome Bud, who is 7 years old, visits the Hillview Library. Children there who have English as a second language have trouble reading at their grade level, but having Bud to read to helps “children feel comfortable reading no matter their skill level,” Laskin says. Children are drawn to Bud because of his size and looks, and this encourages them to visit the library, play with him, color a picture of him, and write a message on a paper bone.
Because of the popular attention, Laskin says that parents with autistic children have sought out the program to help their children read.
Laskin says her dogs are a miracle and put a smile on people’s faces, but they do get tired after a long day of getting petted, playing and listening to children read.
“After the session, Bud is exhausted and needs to take a nap when we get home,” she says. “The libraries welcome anyone to the program, as it encourages children to read in a nonjudgmental situation and also encourages families to visit the library.”
Furry Friends has many sites, including libraries, schools, institutions, nursing homes and hospitals.
Her involvement with the canine programs has inspired Laskin to work to make a difference on her own. “I’m working on putting together a team of Next Door Solutions, an organization that assists victims of domestic violence,” she says. “It’s all about trying to bring a bit of enjoyment into the kids’ lives.”
Laskin also wants to start a Furry Friends program in Oregon after she retires because currently the organization is operated only in Santa Clara County.
-Tsering Yangchen ’14
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