After her kids grew up, one Flour Bluff woman realized that her pet dog needed something to do. That, combined with her quest to help children read, led her to volunteer her time and her dog's affection for a special mission.
Christine Martin rescued Roxie about six years ago from a no-kill shelter. Since then, she has certified the retriever mix through the "Love On a Leash" therapy program and started bringing her to school and libraries to encourage reluctant students to read.
"Roxie sits and listens and they pet her. They're not reading to me, or to a teacher, or a parent. They're reading to a dog," Martin said. "The dog's not correcting them or telling them they're doing something wrong. They're just non-judgmental, and kids just open up and read."
A full-time employee with the Corpus Christi Independent School District, Martin's mission started about three and a half years ago when she realized something needed to be done to combat illiteracy in our state. After certifying Roxie, she involved two of her other dogs.
"I was always just interested in seeing if it would help children in the community, bringing a dog in, and it did spike a lot of interest in letting kids want to read and encourage them reading," Martin said. "And then we did Moose, because Moose can sit on their laps. Then Gigi."
Martin and her best friend, together with the smaller dogs, also visit a nursing home every Friday. She said that although she has little time to do anything else but train, walk and feed her four-legged friends, making the regular visits are instantly gratifying.
"The ones in the nursing home just see the animals, get to be part of what they're missing from their home," Martin said. "And with the kids, seeing them say that word or read that book, that's rewarding."
Martin is working on the next step, which is writing a few short stories to go along with the reading program, using Roxie as her main character.
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