Bowwow vows: Cape Elizabeth library program leads to pooch ‘wedding’

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CAPE ELIZABETH — For Maddie and Winston it was “love at first bark.”

At least that’s what 10-year-old Andy Brooking said of the two dogs who are getting “married” this weekend at Thomas Memorial Library.

The mock ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. Aug. 20 on the front lawn of the library at 6 Scott Dyer Road.

“Winston is a lovable golden retriever and Maddie is a beautiful black Labrador retriever,” Brooking said.

The wedding, to which the public is invited, is a fundraiser for the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland. Guests are asked to bring animal supplies or make a cash donation.

Maddie and Winston, owned by Cape Elizabeth residents Sarah Sullivan and Barbara Schenke, respectively, met in the library’s bi-weekly “Read to a Dog” program, where children read to the therapy dogs one-on-one.

Brooking, who is entering fifth grade at Cape Elizabeth Middle School, has participated in the program since he was in first grade.

Last year he got the idea that the two dogs were meant for each other.

“There’s a photo of them holding paws,” Brooking said.

Rachel Davis, the library’s assistant director and children’s librarian, helped Brooking with the matchmaking.

“I didn’t realize until (Brooking’s) mom told me, how much Maddie meant to him and how much he had been thinking of a dog wedding,” Davis said. “I thought, why don’t we make Andy’s dream come true?”

Davis will be officiate at the wedding, and said she’ll put her own twist on the vows: “Do you, Winston, take Maddie to be your library-wedded wife?” she said Wednesday.

Special gold-painted collars are being made for the dogs, and Brooking, who plans to wear a fedora, will be the “collar bearer” who puts them on the dogs.

After the ceremony there will be a reception with face painting, cupcake decorating, and a station where children can make dog and cat toys to donate or take home.

Representatives from the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland will be on hand with information about how to adopt a pet. The shelter has created a wish list of items it needs, which is available at the library and on its website. Items include cat, dog, and rabbit food, brushes, pet beds, cat litter, and pet toys.

Davis said the fundraiser is the beginning of a partnership between the library and the nonprofit organization; an animal advocates club is starting this fall at the library with the help of the shelter. The club is for middle school students and will meet on the second Tuesday of the month at 2:30 p.m., starting on Sept. 13.

Brooking said the wedding is important to him because of the impact the dog reading program has had on his life. He said the stress and fear of reading aloud is reduced when kids read to dogs.

Davis said the program has been “an integral part” of increasing children’s literacy.

“It’s a very successful program,” she said. “It’s been improving kids’ reading skills and giving them more confidence.”

Winston is at the library every Wednesday from 3:15 -5 p.m. and Maddie is there every Thursday from 3:30-5:15 p.m. Parents can sign their children up for 15 minute blocks.

Schenkel, Winston’s owner, said she’s been able to see the effect the program has had on kids.

“It’s shown that reluctant readers are helped by dogs because they’re not judgmental,” she said. “I’ve seen some real advancement with the kids.”

Winston and Maddie are both certified therapy dogs through the national Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

On Saturday, they will each get another certificate – a marriage certificate. Even if it isn’t real, Brooking hopes the event will be fun.

“It’ll be the wedding of the year, I think,” he said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Andy Brooking, 10, has organized the wedding of Maddie and Winston at Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth on Saturday, Aug. 20.

Winston, a golden retriever who takes part in Thomas Memorial Library’s “Read to a Dog” program, is the groom in a mock wedding ceremony taking place at the Cape Elizabeth library Aug. 20.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.
  • Mainer1

    Great use of Taxpayer funds and a $16 million unnecessary library.

    • Goldie

      Get a grip, old timer!

    • CommunityFirst

      Jeez, you people and your continual grinding on “taxpayer money”… it is astounding! $16 million? Which orifice did you pull that number out of? Attitudes like yours is what has left us with a severely compromised library building thanks to skittishness about the original plan “costing too much.” The town buckled under pressure from a few old cranks and, while we have a pretty new building, it’s far from ideal heading into the future.

      So, apart from my gut reaction to fiscal spleeners, I, for one, think this is an amazing example of surprising, enriching and PRODUCTIVE programming, and am proud to be a part of a community that supports such things.