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Therapy dogs make perfect pals for budding readers



Finn (left) supports a reader during Samuels Public Library’s free Books & Barks program. Library photo

FRONT ROYAL — An inspiring program at Samuels Public Library proves that therapy dogs are an aspiring reader’s best friend.

The free monthly Books & Barks program is held the first Saturday of every month. The next session is scheduled for this Saturday, Sept. 7. Children, parents or guardians may register in advance for a 20-minute session to read with the dogs beginning at 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m., and 11:30 a.m.

“I’m so happy that we can offer this program to the children of our community,” said Kathy Jacob, youth services assistant and outreach coordinator at Samuels Public Library. “They are reading orally, one-on-one, with a caring adult and a comforting dog.

“Personally,” she added, “Books & Barks is what helped my children overcome their fear of dogs when they were little, so this program has meant a lot to our family.”

Kona (left) enjoys quiet reading time with his friend. Library photo

In 2006, Jackie Smith and Sally Petty of Sperryville, Va.-based Waggin’ Hearts Therapy Dogs approached Michal Ashby, youth services supervisor at Samuels Public Library, about getting their therapy dogs together with young readers.

“It was a good fit for our department, and we’ve been doing it monthly ever since,” Jacob said.

While Waggin’ Hearts Therapy Dogs and their owners visit several nursing homes and senior centers throughout the region, some of the members also participate in the Books & Barks R.E.A.D. program at local schools and libraries, including in Warren County at E.W. Morrison Elementary School, Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School, and Ressie Jeffries Elementary School.

Smith, a Waggin’ Hearts volunteer who’s been with the group since 2005, said that when children read to the dogs, both their reading skills and desire to read improve.

“The dogs are non-judgmental, which makes them not afraid to read to the dogs, therefore it helps improve their reading skills,” she said.

Angela Dusenberry (right) and Bonnie (center) support a Books and Barks participant. Library photo

Waggin’ Hearts members all belong to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, an international organization that provides registration and supports for those involved in Animal Assisted Activities. All that’s required to get your dog involved is for the canine to love what it does and get along with children, adults and other dogs, said Smith.

“These dogs do not have to be a certain breed,” she said. “They just have to love people and kids.”

Over the years, Smith said the Samuels Public Library Books & Barks program has had up to 10 certified team members with their dogs, a sign-up sheet with 25 to 30 children, and a waiting list each month.

Currently, she said six teams go to Samuels Public Library for the two-hour program.

“Kids truly love reading to the dogs and come in ready with books,” said Smith, who noted that Jacob also provides children with a choice of books.

“Kids do not have to know how to read,” she added. “We encourage them to want to read and we will read to them.”

Sydney (top) listens with his eyes closed as Donald Bradner (right) reads with the girls. Library photo

Generally, Jacob described Books & Barks participants as mostly young readers; some are beginning readers while others may be quite fluent.

“It is mostly school-aged children who come, but we don’t turn teenagers away if they really want to read to a dog,” said Jacob.

One of the things Jacob said she loves about the program are “the comments from the parents about how much their children look forward to Books & Barks each month.”

For instance, she’s heard from some parents that their children even practice reading in preparation for meeting with their favorite dog.

Jacob also said she loves “the warm, comforting, relaxed atmosphere the children experience when they come. They feel accepted by the dogs, and they are enthusiastically welcomed by the dogs’ owners, as well.”

Leo (front) hangs on his reader’s every spoken word. Library photo

Because the Books & Barks dogs have been through training and testing to become certified therapy dogs, they have mild temperaments and don’t bite, bark or growl at the children.

“The dogs’ owners are always nearby, and help the children know their dog’s favorite ways to be petted,” Jacob explained. “The dogs let the children pet them, and often the owners will have the children offer the dogs treats.”

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Community Events

Online auction to support St Luke Community Clinic



Fundraisers have been difficult for our local non-profits this year. Please consider participating in St Luke Community Clinic – Online Auction starting September 21. Watch this video to learn more. Visit St. Luke’s site to see all items available!

Any items that would like to be viewed in person can be done in a private viewing by calling St. Luke Community Clinic at 540-636-4325. They will be happy to arrange a time for you to come look at any item you are interested in. The auction starts on Monday, September 21, 2020, at 7:00 am and ends on September 26, 2020, at 6:00 pm.

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Community Events

Meet the local candidates Friday night at the Gazebo at 6 pm



Meet our Mayoral and Town Council candidates (along with some current members) in a town hall forum setting outdoors.

Bring your questions! Let’s all get to know those who are making our decisions a little better. Friday, September 18th at the Gazebo at 6 pm.

** Rain venue will be the large tent behind the Virginia Beer Museum

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Town Talk: A conversation with Jerry Sarchet, WCHS Football Coach – golf tournament scheduled September 25, 2020



In this Town Talk, our publisher Mike McCool speaks with Jerry Sarchet, the new WCHS Football Coach. When the school shut down last March, all sports programs also ended, along with the fund-raising by the Warren Wildcat Athletic Association. The WWAA provides support to the WC football program and is sponsoring a golf tournament on September 25, 2020, at the Bowling Green Golf Course.

This event is an 18 hole scramble with a shotgun start including a box lunch and two drink tickets. There will be the longest drive contest and a chance to win a new car (valued up to $20,000) on a par 3 hole. There will be a pay to play 50/50 putting contest. There also will be a silent auction. There is still room for players and sponsors.

Contact Kevin Glascock (540) 660-1190 or the coach:

Click here to download the brochure.

Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders, and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied but hopefully interesting. If you have an idea, topic, or want to hear from someone in our community, let us know. Send your request to

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Humane Society of Warren County’s 9th annual Tails and Ales tickets on sale NOW!



The Humane Society of Warren County announced tickets for their 9th annual Tails and Ales event are on sale NOW at the shelter!

“The event will look different this year as we are going virtual”, says Kayla Wines, Shelter Manager. Tickets are just $10 and includes your invite to our online bidding platform (Bid Beacon), entry into our door prize drawings and the grand prize drawing – both will be drawn at random.

When you purchase your ticket, we will ask you to provide your email address. 2 weeks prior to the event, we will send out an invite link to Bid Beacon so you can preview auction baskets. The auction will start on 11/14 and end on 11/16.

Our grand prize will feature a 1-night stay at the beautiful Mimslynn Inn in Luray VA, tickets to Luray Caverns, a $100 VISA gift card, dinner for two and 2 Tails and Ales souvenir glasses. We will also have our usual 50/50 raffle and tickets can be purchased directly from the bidding site.

Bid Beacon is very simple to use and there is also a handy app that can be downloaded to your phone. Bid on all you want from the comfort of your couch! Give us a call if you are needing tickets at 540-635-4734.

During the event, be sure to check out our Facebook page for video updates and virtual cheers to our supporters!

The Humane Society of Warren County is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing compassionate care to abandoned, abused, homeless and neglected animals in our community. It is our vision to be part of a community where every pet is a wanted pet.

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LFCC’s Evening with the Stars tradition continues with a twist



The LFCC Educational Foundation’s Evening with the Stars benefit will go on, but like many events this year, will feature a twist – it will be online, but with an accompanying real-life feast.

Attendees will pick up a “party-to-go” kit between 4 and 6 p.m., Thursday, September 24, from the parking lot of the under-construction Luray-Page County Center, located at 275 Allison Way, Luray.

Each $50 ticket – of which $30 is a tax-deductible donation – includes a charcuterie board prepared by The Valley Cork and a link to an exclusive online video presentation. Beer from Hawksbill Brewing Co. and wine from Faithbrooke Farm and Vineyards are also available for purchase.

Proceeds from Evening with the Stars will go towards the new Luray-Page County Center, which is on schedule to open in January.

“Our video evening will feature footage on the progress of the new center and a bit of its history,” said Foundation development officer Tami O’Brien. “We will also hear from LFCC President Kim Blosser – a Page County native and current resident – as well as the business leaders and donors who have made possible this exciting opportunity for more Page County citizens to continue their higher education without leaving home.”

To accommodate our vendors, it is asked that tickets be purchased by Friday, Sept. 18. Tickets are available at If you have questions or need assistance, contact O’Brien at, or 540-351-1046.

We would like to thank our sponsors, Luray Caverns, LD&B Insurance and Financial Servies, Racey Engineering and Syntelligent Analytic Solutions LLC.

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Meet local author Scott Bradley Hesson



Local author Scott Bradley Hesson will be at the Royal Oak Bookshop, 27 S Royal Avenue, Front Royal, Virginia on September 20th, from 1 pm to 3 pm, to sign his book, “There Might Be Ghosts Inside Those Hills.” 

His book is about the personal experiences he had working in several of the caverns in the area. Here is a highlight.

Where some might find a cavern a dark and gloomy place, to me, there is no better, more relaxing place on earth, or in earth. Then again, I have been working in them since I was twelve-thirteen, officially. So I am more used to them than most people.

Over those years, I and a few of my friends have seen some pretty unusual things. Not just the beauty of the formations and the chambers, but things that might curl the hair of most. I have heard but never saw two little girls laugh. I have seen women from the last millennium dressed in their Sunday best turn into mist. I have made a Civil War soldier mad at me and watched him turn into a ball of black smoke. I have heard the scream of a woman in the dark. These experiences are some of the most vivid memories of my life.

Unlike some, I really find these things fascinating and consider myself fortunate to have experienced them. Here I tell of some of these experiences, and many others, including things that I have experienced with real people. I also relay some of the most unusual and, some might call intriguing, things about caves in general. After all, caves have been around for a long time and explored by thousands-in some cases, long before us. In all, I have to say I have lived a blessed life, and thank God for everything I have.

In this book, I tell of some things that he has let me see. I would like to see more unusual things, but I really don’t seem to have any kind of control over any of it. I do know that it has been fun getting there so far and really do hope it will continue. Only time will tell, and one day, maybe I will have enough for a volume two-that would be the ultimate. I do hope to have a couple of new books in the future, after all, I have dealt with the public most of my life. They are, in some cases, more fascinating than the apparitions that I have encountered.

Mark your calendar for September 20, 2020 to meet the author at his book signing, at Royal Oak Bookshop, 207 S Royal Avenue in Front Royal.

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Front Royal
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