February 9, 2013

Citizens of the Week: Beverly Hedges and her reading dog

Blue Ridge School physical education teacher Beverly Hedges didn’t know her adopted Portuguese water dog would have such an impact on so many lives when they joined forces a couple of years ago.

Dubbed a “reading buddy,” nearly 2-year-old “Jag” has been making the rounds in the community. Hedges started out taking her to the school as a companion. Since she is hypoallergenic and well-behaved, her principal readily agreed to the arrangement.

Soon, Jag began getting assignments. Instead of staying with Hedges all day, she was allowed to sit in with young readers. Somehow, reading to a dog makes reading easier and more fun to struggling learners, several teachers said.

During the past year or two, Jag became a well-known fixture at the school and a nearly constant companion of Hedges, who has set up a Facebook page (Jag Blue Ridge School Reading Buddy) in which the dog “posts” about her upcoming activities. Recently, Jag and Hedges have been coming to the Dalton-Whitfield County Library so Jag can visit with other little readers.

In addition to library visits, Jag helps kids who are struggling with math, participates in community meetings of Readers to Leaders — a community initiative to improve literacy — and has been to the Chatsworth Healthcare Center.

“I have been approached about Jag possibly being used in Juvenile Court,” Hedges said. “This is being done in other circuits. If a child has to testify in open court, Jag can be brought in for the child to talk to her as to hopefully keep the child less scared.”

Now that’s a thoughtful dog-owner team. Anyone can ensure a dog is fed, watered, groomed and cared for, but to share their dog in a way that touches so many lives is going above and beyond the call of ... duty.

For their efforts to brighten the lives of so many children who need a friend, The Daily Citizen names Beverly Hedges and her dog Jag Citizens of the Week.


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