WHITE BEAR LAKE — After Sting the Greyhound spent a lonely night at the library and made a Facebook post to find more reading pals, he's received requests for reading dates from across the country and the world — from as far away as California and even New Zealand.
“It's been crazy, I can't even tell you. … We have lost count of how many phone calls we have gotten,” said Ramsey County Library – White Bear Lake Children's Librarian Ann Wahlstrom, who oversees the library's Paws to Read program. The program offers children ages 4 to 8 a chance to read to a friendly animal who won't judge as they practice reading skills.
When no one signed up to read to Sting Feb. 7, he made the trip from Hugo anyway, just to see the librarians and perhaps get a few pets from library goers, said his owner John Muellner. He waited in his usual spot to see if any children were available to read but didn't find a pal.
Muellner snapped a few photos of a forlorn-looking Sting and posted them to his Facebook page, promoting the library's reading program and asking people with young children to call the library to sign up for a reading slot with Sting.
When a friend on a Greyhound rescue page requested to share the post publicly, it went viral. As of press time, the post had been shared about 47,000 times and had 30,000 likes.
The phone at the White Bear Lake library has been ringing off the hook with people requesting to read to Sting from as far away as Florida, Texas and New England, Wahlstrom said. Even adults have been requesting to read to Sting over the phone. Employees at a Petco in California called to tell the library to give Sting a hug for them. Many Minnesotans also called. A child from as far away as Lakeville has set up a time to read with Sting.
“It's been very busy but awesome hearing from all of the people,” Wahlstrom said.
Muellner has even received Facebook messages from people offering to chat with Sting online in order to read to him.
Sting is now booked through April and has also added days to his reading schedule. The library's other Paws to Read dog, Lacey, has also seen a boost to her schedule. Other Ramsey County libraries also received calls requesting to read to dogs who visit their libraries.
Currently, Ramsey County Library has six certified therapy dogs who take appointments to read with young children. At the Shoreview library, Abby and Morgan take appointments. Cookie reads at Maplewood. Indy reads at Mounds View. The dogs have been trained to be gentle and their owners have gone through background checks. In the past, a rabbit and miniature horse have also been part of the Paws to Read program, which has been around for about 10 years.
Sting has been part of the program for about two years, Muellner said. He also visits Gillette Children's Hospital and Regions Hospital, where he is an emotional therapy dog for visitors, patients and staff.
Sting was a race dog from Iowa before he was placed with Muellner through Greyhound Pets of America seven years ago. Sting turned 10 in January.
What does Sting think of all the hype? “Well, he is pretty blasé about everything so he doesn't really get rattled by too much,” Muellner said.
Sting's next appearance at the White Bear Lake library will be 6 to 7 p.m. Feb. 13, a week earlier than he had planned on being back.
The schedules of other Paws to Read program dogs can be viewed on the Ramsey County Library website's calendar under the “Events and Classes” tab at rclreads.org. Washington County also has a Dog Gone Reading program and information can be found at washcolib.org.
Vadnais Heights Editor Sara Marie Moore can be reached at 651-407-1235.