As 9-year-old Jourdan Thiessen read the children's book "Chewy Louie" out-loud on a comfy couch inside the Burlington Public Library on Saturday morning, Birch the therapy dog snuggled up next to her, occasionally laying his head in Thiessen's lap.
Birch didn't understand the words coming out Thiessen's mouth, but he didn't need to. His job was just to be there - a quiet companion who passes no judgment and has no expectations. A companion whose big, curious eyes could melt the heart of all but the world's coldest cynics.
"Some of the kids are kind of scared of him, but others absolutely love him," said Birch's owner, 14-year-old Sammie Johnson.
Birch is a certified therapy dog, and for the past couple of months, Sammie has brought him to the library on a bi-weekly basis so he can sit patiently while children practice their reading skills without their parents or another adult hovering over them.