Tanka listens to young readers as they share a story, reading aloud, via Zoom during the Read To A Dog program. 

The virtual “Read To A Dog” program continues today through the Noel Wien Library and dogs are in for a treat.

When the program debuted last Thursday, two little girls chose to read these books: “Go, Dog. Go” and “If I Were A Puppy.” Their attentive listener was Tanka, a Companions Inc. dog who listened patiently to the young readers via Zoom.

Tanka and his owner, Sarah McConnell, don’t have great wifi at their home, so they drove to the library parking lot and participated from there. Tanka got in the spirit of spring by wearing bunny ears.

According to McConnell, Tanka was a very attentive listener.

“He yawned, smiled and nodded,” she said.

Today, eight youngsters are signed up to read to dogs, all members of Companions Inc.

These specially-trained pets haven’t been able to visit with anyone in person during the past year, due to COVID. The longtime non-profit usually provides therapy animals for visits to those in need. Before COVID, they made regular visits to Denali Center, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Fairbanks Pioneers Home and the Fairbanks Senior Center.

So when they were asked to participate in this program, they enthusiastically agreed. Each dog has a shift of 30 minutes to an hour with just two 10-minute sessions every 30 minutes. The program runs 3-5 p.m. every Thursday through the end of April and is available for children from kindergarten through sixth grade. Kids read to the dogs via Zoom.

“All the dog are totally awesome,” said Susan Jones, youth services librarian. “It’s just so fun.”


Cookies of Appreciation


Think of a girl scout cookie as a hug for a health care worker and share a case of cookies to show appreciation. Girl Scouts are offering this donation option again this year.

“Similar to last year, we are encouraging the community to donate Girl Scout cookies to our frontline workers who have sacrificed so much this past year, to keep us safe and healthy,” said Suellen Nelles, director of the Farthest North Girl Scouts in Fairbanks. “Community members can call the Girl Scout office to donate cases of cookies. A case equals 12 boxes of cookies and sells for $60.”

This year, buyers can donate not only to local hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and ambulance services, but also to vaccine workers and clinics.

“This is a chance for our community to wrap our arms around our health care workers and share with them the sweet, familiar taste of Thin Mints, Samoas and Tagalongs,” Nellen said.

The program launched in 2020 when COVID struck. This year, it will be offered through the month of April. The program allows people to show appreciation to those who are working with the public during the covid crisis. It also supports girl scouts, a non-profit group that provides programming to local and rural/village troops.

Anyone wishing to donate can call, donate with a credit card, and Girl Scouts will deliver a case of cookies. Call 907 456-4782 or 800-478-4782.

Last year, Girl Scouts delivered more than 70 cases of cookies to health care workers.

“There’s something very comforting about girl scout cookies,” Nelles said when the program launched last year. “Not just because it is a sweet treat, but because of its familiarity.”


Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.