About the Holiday
February, on the horizon of sunny spring, is a great time to reflect on your emotional health. A strong sense of self-esteem – what a person thinks of themselves inside – is important for leading a happy life. With all of the pressures of work, school, and other activities, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious. Finding the positive in every day as well as understanding and appreciating one’s strengths and weaknesses can lead to a more peaceful and fulfilling life. One way both kids and adults find acceptance and a boost in self-esteem is by playing with pets or spending time with therapy dogs, like the canine helpers in today’s book.
Toby and Tutter: Therapy Dogs
Written by Kirsten DeBear | Photographs by Laura Dwight
Ten years ago Toby, a mixed breed dog, was adopted from a shelter when he was only six months old and trained to be a therapy dog. He works with his mother, an occupational therapist, helping children learn and play. Like some of the kids themsselves, Toby has a little brother. His name is Tutter and he was adopted when he was four months old. Toby admits that it took awhile to get used to having Tutter around. Tutter is smaller and captures a lot of the children’s attention. He even wiggles in between Toby and the kids “stealing all the affection.”
Toby explains that when he was young, he “went to school…to study how to behave around children and how to follow directions.” He learned how to work with many different kids. Tutter wants to be a therapy dog too, but Toby is skeptical. He’s not sure that Tutter has the courage or patience it requires. Their mother, though, thinks that with enough training, he will be able to do it.
Tutter is an Italian greyhound, and while Toby may think he “looks goofy,” Tutter is proud that the kids call him “cute.” Tutter just wants to be like his big brother and help children even if he is small and often afraid. He follows Toby and tries to do what he does,but it’s hard While Toby is good at lying down and letting the kids pet his fluffy fur, Tutter is just “learning to stay still. If the children sit quietly I will go to them and cuddle up on their laps. But if they’re wild I run away!” says Tutter. Toby likes to play ball with the kids. They throw it to him and Toby gives it back. Tutter doesn’t really like to share his toys. Toby likes to play on the equipment, such as the slide, balance beam, swing, and tunnel, but Tutter is afraid to use them. He prefers the hammock with its gentle motion.
While Tutter and Toby may seem very different, they are similar is some ways. Tutter likes to wear the necklaces the kids make, so he’s learning to sit still just like Toby while the children put them over his head. Tutter can also play peek-a-boo like Toby; and he tries to encourage the children by letting them know “that doing your best is all that you can do.”
Every day Tutter feels that he’s getting braver, and he knows that he has special talents that Toby doesn’t. Tutter is allowed in the ball pit with the kids, he can pretend to be in a greyhound race, and he can be carried in a bag. He’s also good at teaching the kids to be gentle and quiet and not to be afraid of dogs. Tutter is happy to be who he is and is proud of what he can do; Toby is proud of Tutter too for trying new things even if they are scary. Tutter and Toby are happy to be a team!
Children will love this story of two therapy dogs helping out at school. Kirsten DeBear’s engaging story of these brothers encompasses the emotions family members often feel, including the sibling rivalry and deep affection of brothers and sisters that readers will recognize. The alternating thoughts of the two dogs—one more mature and easy-going and for whom learning comes easily and the other younger and more hesitant who struggles with some tasks—echo the diversity of children found in any social situation. Toby and Tutter demonstrate that everyone can be proud of their abilities and accomplishments and have much to offer. DeBear’s honest and accessible language will resonate with kids who will be charmed by sweet Tutter and friendly Toby.
Laura Dwight captures the interactions of children playing and learning with Toby and Tutter in colorful photographs full of action and personality. Kids will love seeing how these two brothers perform their jobs by modeling actions, offering comfort, and being ready playmates. The obvious love the children show for their furry friends will make readers smile and wish they were part of the group.
Toby and Tutter: Therapy Dogs is a wonderful choice for opening discussions on empathy and social-emotional topics as well as the work of specially trained companion animals with children.
Ages 4 – 8
Toby and Tutter Publishing, 2016; Paperback 978-0984781218 | Hardcover 978-0984781201 | Available on Amazon
To learn more about Kirsten DeBear, her programs, and her work with disabled children and children with Down syndrome, visit her website.
Discover more about Laura Dwight and her photography for children’s books, textbooks, nonprofit agencies, and more on her website.
International Boost Self-Esteem Month Activity
I Love Dogs Word Search
Dogs of all types make great friends and companions and bring joy to life. Can you find the names of all the dogs in this printable I Love Dogs Word Search?
Picture Book Review