Is there anything cuter than a small (domesticated) furry animal? Well, there is if you take an adorable cat or dog (or puppy or kitten), add an animal-loving library employee, and see said employee read a short story to the adorable animal.
The Stewart C. Meyer Harker Heights Public Library and the Harker Heights Pet Adoption Center have teamed up to shine a light on two things most people care about: literacy and adoption. of pets. The “Furry Friends” program combines the two through library clerk Heather Heilman, who visits the shelter about once a month with a children’s book and reads to one of the many animals up for adoption.
The segment is filmed by children’s librarian Erica Rossmiller, who came to the library after working at the shelter for a while.
Heilman said the idea stemmed from his desire to get involved with the Pet Adoption Center and incorporate it into the library as a way to “help them.” “It was my love of animals that made me try,” she said.
Pet Adoption Center director Shiloh Wester said she was first approached by Heilman in September.
“It was presented as a series of videos to introduce animals in need of homes at the Pet Adoption Center,” she said. A segment was filmed in October, National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, although this first segment did not feature a reading; rather, says Heilman, the only focus at the time was the animals themselves. Wester released several dogs, highlighting those struggling to find forever homes to give them more exposure.
The reading part of the program came after that first video. “It works pretty well with cats,” Heilman said with a laugh. “They are a better audience when we read.”
The second segment, filmed in November, featured Roman the kitten and Heilman reading to the active baby in the Center’s hangout room.
The segments, now known as “Furry Friends Fridays,” are released about once a month, and while there’s no set day or time, Heilman said it usually airs. in the middle of the month.
All of the videos are posted on the library’s Facebook page, making it great fun for kids and their families to watch, have a little story hour, and see the animals in a relaxed setting interact with Heilman.
“Several people said they liked the library doing this,” Heilman said. “It (shows) a bit more, and (we) interact with the animals in a different way.”
The literacy part of the program is important (even for the animals, to whom a dog- or cat-themed story is read), but, Heilman said, “the ultimate goal is to find homes for the animals.” . It was actually a great success.
“So far, all of the animals that have been shown have been adopted,” Wester said. The kitten was adopted the very next day, and a puppy, Heilman said, was adopted “in no time!” (Although not in a video, the pup was featured in photos of animal shelters the library also publishes.)
Heilman continued, “Even if that animal is gone, they might look around and find something else they like.” It’s a big win for everyone.
Heilman said the program is one of the highlights of his job. “Playing with them and helping them find a good home always makes me feel good.
“My hope is to bring a little more traffic to the Pet Adoption Center and more interest in pet adoption,” Heilman said. And, she added, “I think it’s something great to spread in the community.”