Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
The Havre-Hill County Public Library had a special visitor Thursday to kick off its summer reading program Pixie, a sled dog that used to patrol Denali National Park in Alaska. “When you meet Pixie I want you to think about, this is the same dog,” said Harry Schlitz, who tours with his Mountain Mushers Hero Sled Dog Educational/Therapy Team. Harry and Lela Schlitz, who have retired to Park City, adopted Pixie and another Denali sled dog, Sorrel, in 2005. They take the Denali veterans and and their other dog, Su, across the country for educational and therapeutic events. The library filled with more than 200 children and adults as Schlitz prepared his presentation, bringing in his racing sled, posters, and displays to set up in the library meeting room. The crowd stretched from the meeting room to nearly the circulation desk across the library. Clayton Twombly, 8, son of Angela and Clint Twombly, said his favorite part of the presentation was when he petted Pixie, but he added that Schlitz’s presentation about dog sled teams was interesting. “Being one of those guys would be really fun,” he said. His brother Logan, almost 6 years old, said his favorite part was when Schlitz showed a video clip of sled dogs in Denali. Logan said his favorite part of the video was when the dogs were “running really fast.” Daniel Johnson, 7, son of Jim and Nancy Johnson, also said his favorite part was the video clip. He had a one-word reply when asked what it was like to pet Pixie: “Soft.” Children’s Librarian Carrie Wilson said 143 children came downstairs to the library’s new reading room to register for the summer reading program before, during and after Schlitz’s program. Schlitz had two main points in his presentation the children should use their library and they should be careful when approaching strange dogs. “Never pet a strange dog,” he told the audience, telling the children to always check with an adult before approaching any strange dog. Several times during his half-hour presentation Schlitz told the audience to use their library, to read. He told the story of how he and his wife, Lela, who could not come to Havre due to having had eye surgery, started showing their dogs: when a teacher who taught in Southern California with Lela asked them to show their dog sled team to her class 15 years ago. The students had just finished reading “Stone Fox” by John Reynolds Gardiner, and he and Lela decided to start using their dogs to promote reading, Schlitz said. He asked the children if they liked movies like “Balto,” “Iron Will,” and “Snow Dogs,” with most of the children raising their hands to show they had seen and enjoyed the movies. “If you liked Snow Dogs’, read Winterdance,’” Schlitz said, naming the nonfiction book by Gary Paulsen about the Iditarod dog sled race in Alaska the Disney movie was based upon. Clayton Twombly said his favorite part of Schlitz’s presentation was his telling the story, with the taped sound of wind blowing in the background, of Balto, the dog famous for running in the 1925 race against time to take diphtheria vaccine to the town of Nome, Alaska. Clayton said he now plans to read the book about Balto. The Havre stop was just one of many for Schlitz he and Lela regularly load Pixie, Sorrel and Su into their Hummer pulling a trailer and drive to stops across the country. The Schlitzes use their team to promote reading and education, and as therapy for elderly and for the young. Havre library director Bonnie Williamson said she was happy with the presentation, the turnout and the patience of the crowded audience. She said it was a successful kickoff for the summer reading program, which provides rewards to children who log a certain number of minutes reading books from the library. Signup for the reading program began Thursday and runs through July 20.