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Library reading dog dies of liver disease 


Dexter the Dog loved to be read to by children

Dexter the reading dog

Paula Motlo holding Dexter

Dexter was a regular fixture at the Atascadero library, going to the library once a month for the last year and a half for children to read to him, until he passed away on July 15.

Dexter, who was part of Fred and Paula Motlo’s family, was certified through Pet Partners and first volunteered through Hospice of the Central Coast. Paula said she found Dexter, a Bichon poodle, at a poodle rescue three and a half years ago while they were going through challenges with Paula’s father, Joe Schwartz, who passed away in March 2013.

“I knew he was inherently a dog that could give back to adults or children just by his presence, so, I got him certified,” Paula said. “We started with that Hospice organization because they were the Hospice that had given such wonderful support to my father, Joe Schwartz. I wanted to give back to the community, and knew Dexter was ideal, with his gentleness, for this role with the elderly or with children. So, he began visiting patients sometime after my father passed away on March 13, 2013.”
It wasn’t long before Dexter got involved with the library reading program. Paula said that when she first heard of it, she knew he would be ideal for that role too, again, because of his gentle nature.
“The children who read, and Dexter who listened, both received special blessings from the experience,” Paula said, adding that they called him “Dexter My Love.”
When Dexter was 5 years old, he got a kidney disease that eventually led to his death last month. Paula said that despite his illness, he continued to go for walks twice a day, ate well, enjoyed doggie play dates and was read to at the library. She said that if you didn’t know Dexter had an illness, you wouldn’t have been able to tell by looking at him.

“He had this funny little nuance where he would wag his entire rear end along with his tail any time he met someone,” Paula recalled. “All he wanted was a pat, a kind word, or the opportunity to bring that person some joy with his teddy bear cuteness and sweet disposition. He truly was everybody’s teddy bear to cuddle — to have and to hold.”

When he was in his role as“Library Dog,” Paula said he would sit or lie down on his soft bed that his family took with them to the library. “He would get comfy,” she said, “and then spend the rest of the library hour listening to children of all ages practice their reading, tell their stories, or just show him the pictures in the book. He would calmly listen in his ‘Dexter Way,’ with his patient nature. Occasionally, I would have to nudge him if he got too relaxed and fell asleep in the middle of the child’s story.

A small memorial for Dexter sits on the Children Librarian Joan Bloomfield’s desk in the children’s section of the library on Capistrano Avenue. Child were scheduled to read to Dexter up to his death. Tears welled up in several librarians eyes when Dexter’s name was mentioned.

“We all have something to learn from doggies like Dexter,” Paula said. “We get back, what we put out. Dexter put out his love to others and got back love from others. What a lovely way for life to be.”

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