SAUGUS — On Wednesday afternoon, 7-year-old Lucas Ingianni found comfort in reading one of his favorite books to a new furry friend.
He flipped through the tired pages, rhyming and reading the words as Sam-I-Am tirelessly tried to sell green eggs and ham as a novelty — whether in a house with a mouse, in a box, with a fox, with a goat, or on a boat. All the while, Lydia the dog lay peacefully in his lap.
Though she’s undoubtedly heard the words countless times before — children have torn through the Dr. Seuss classic for nearly 60 years — Lydia doesn’t scoff or roll her eyes, she doesn’t get impatient or correct him for the words he got wrong. And Ingianni doesn’t worry she will.
The Saugus Public Library welcomed Lydia the comfort dog for the first time on Wednesday. Lydia is stationed in Lynnfield at the Messiah Lutheran Church and will now return every Wednesday throughout the summer.
Comfort dogs are friends who bring a calming influence, allowing people to open up their hearts and receive help in times of need, according to the church’s website.
On a daily basis, Lydia interacts with everyone from young children in schools, libraries, and hospitals, and with adults in nursing homes and other settings. She is trained to bring comfort and affection in disaster response situations.
On February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., 17 students and staff were killed and 17 others were wounded in a school shooting.
When the surviving students returned to the building to resume classes, Lydia was among the therapy dogs that were there to help.
“She brought comfort to the first responders, the people in the FBI debriefing rooms, but she was really there to help the high school kids,” said Kat Bunker, one of her handlers. “Some people scoff at it and say ‘how much can a dog really do?’ Well, they’re safe.”
Lydia also helped survivors of the shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas on May 18. Ten people were killed and 13 wounded in that shooting.
“One time we were invited to a funeral — we only go when we’re invited,” said Bunker. “(Lydia) started pulling me and she doesn’t usually pull. She pulled me straight to a woman and she turned out to be the wife of the man who died. She could sense it.”
Assistant children’s librarian Nicole Correa hopes Lydia can help children in Saugus on a smaller scale.
“We want kids to feel comfortable with reading,” she said. “They don’t have to feel pressured. There’s nobody looking over their shoulder, there’s no one who is going to correct them.”
For Ingianni, Lydia did just that.
“He and his dad both love dogs,” said his mother, Rene Ingianni. “He used to love to read but has stopped a little with it being summer. This got him to read again.”