In one of our latest blog posts, we introduced Katja, the facility dog of Red Deer Public Library. This time, we will look more thoroughly at what Katja does in the library and how she helps the community. Enjoy another article from our guest writer, Tatiana Tilly, one of Katja’s handlers!

Red Deer Public Library members and staff joined in congratulating Katja on Monday, October 30, when the news broke that Katja had successfully completed the final assessment, earning her facility dog vest after two years of training in the owner-trained program through Aspen Service Dogs, an Alberta Government Qualified Service Dog Organization.

Katja In The Library

Now, one might ask… “What does this achievement mean for the library members?” The answer is clear! Now, Katja, the first library facility dog in Alberta, is ready to put her training to work in servicing the Red Deer community! In this article, we will introduce some of the library dog programs that Katja is part of. Let it be an inspiration for other libraries or an invitation to join one of our events in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.

But first, let us clarify the concept of Facility Service Dogs, once again. According to Aspen Service Dogs, Facility Service Dogs are hard-working and adaptable canines suitable for various settings, including courthouses, child protection centers, and schools. These dogs, under the guidance of trained on-site handlers, undergo basic obedience training and are equipped with specific commands tailored to the needs of the respective organization.

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It’s important to note that the role of facility service dogs depends on the goals of the organizations and the ways they can enhance the organization’s programs and services.

We consider ourselves fortunate to have introduced Katja to many library programs during her training. Now, as a full-fledged library staff member, we are excited to share the diverse library dog programs we offer to the Red Deer community.

Library Dog Programs Tailored to Different Needs and Ages:

For young readers (6-11 years), who could benefit from reading practice with a friendly and non-judgmental furry friend, our “Sit, Stay, Read with Katja” program is an excellent way to boost their self-confidence and public speaking skills. This program is available in two formats, offering either a single 30-minute reading opportunity with Katja at the Dawe Branch or a 4-week session at the Timberlands Branch. A variety of reading materials is at hand, and Katja’s handler is there to provide support if needed.

Katja loves visiting schools and meeting students at our different branches, which also serve as school libraries for some of the nearby schools. Teachers and daycare providers are therefore welcome to request a visit from Katja for story time or a presentation about service dogs.

For dog lovers who simply want to meet Katja and engage in playtime, we host large seasonal programs for all ages where Katja makes special appearances. For instance, see our upcoming program in December: “Winter Family Fun with Katja”, where various activities are available, and Katja typically has her station.

For cancer patients, survivors, or family members dealing with cancer, we offer the “Red Deer Cancer Connect” program in partnership with Wellspring Alberta twice a month. There Katja provides friendly company and emotional support to the program participants during these sessions.

Katja also ongoingly attends our theme days. Whether it is Harry Potter or Star Wars Read Day, Katja, as well as her handlers, go above and beyond to match the costumes with the topic!

Katja During RDPL's Theme Days

Allergies

Dog allergies are nothing unusual and some people might therefore be concerned about encountering Katja at the library. However, we always post signs when she is on-site at one of the library branches, so our patrons can make informed decisions based on these notifications.

Katja-themed presents

Since Katja became a vital role in the Red Deer community, we also introduced a Kaja stuffed toy and Katja’s coloring book. This way, even the allergic visitors can meet Katja. Plus, it makes a wonderful Christmas gift!

We will be back with another interesting article from the library world soon!

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Tatiana Tilly

Tatiana Tilly is currently the Strategic Planning and Engagement Manager at the Dawe branch, Red Deer Public Library, Alberta, Canada. She is passionate and knowledgeable about connecting communities and public libraries. In her spare time, she rides her bike everywhere when temperature gets above zero, knits, dances lindy hop, walks her dogs, reads and makes costumes for the branch costume inventory.

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