Pay It 4ward: Woman recognized for bringing ‘Tales of Joy’ to Rio Rancho libraries

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RIO RANCHO, N.M. – Roaming the aisles of a bookstore or public library can be a form of therapy on its own for some, but one Rio Rancho organization hopes to add another layer of comfort, with the help of some very specially trained companions.

A trip to the bookstore is made that much sweeter with a few pets or a group of therapy dogs, and the pair behind it all? Theresa McKinney and her fearless companion, Comet.

“She really does a lot of good for the community, she’s been running this program for a long time now,” said Michele Rost, Pat It 4ward nominator. 

She started “Tales of Joy” back in 2006. She was working for Rio Rancho Public Schools, and saw the need for reading improvement.

“It allows the kids to come and read to the dogs, they practice their reading skills, it’s an enjoyable thing, the dogs are not judgmental, and so I mean it’s just good for everybody,” said Rost. 

Including Rost and her own dog, Teagan London. They’ve been part of the program for years and witnessed McKinney’s hard work to keep it alive during the pandemic. 

“It was unbelievable how much thinking outside the box she did,” Rost said.

Rost and others in the group read to their dogs, and sent the videos to McKinney to post on YouTube. Now that they’re back in person, Rost didn’t want the hard work to go unnoticed.

“You do so much for the community Theresa, you do. So this ($400) is for thinking outside the box all through the pandemic and for everything you do for the dogs, all volunteer,” said Rost. 

“This is gonna go right to our program. And right to keep doing all of what we do for the kids, for the people, for the dogs,” said McKinney. 

McKinney keeps about 18 dogs in Tales of Joy at all times – all certified, reading education assistance dogs who do so much for the kids. 

“When they are so shy to begin with and then all of a sudden they’re bright and they’re talking, and they’re sharing with the dog, and you hear comments from the teachers, you see the growth and it’s not just in the reading it’s in their confidence it’s in everything, that whole child, it’s the miracle of the dogs, not us!” said McKinney. 

The dogs visit Rio Rancho public libraries, Rio Rancho Public Schools, and Barnes and Noble at the Cottonwood Mall every Friday, during the months of June and July.