By Lavanya Sunkara
"Pirate the Pit Bull is just like any other shelter dog: lonely and anxious to find a home. But, unlike other dogs, he has something remarkable going for him. A six-year-old boy named Jacob comes weekly to read to him, and that's his favorite time of the week.
Jacob Tumalan hails from La Habra, Orange County; his parents learned early on that their boy had autism. Jacob's mom, Katherine Tumalan, told NBC 4 News that her son has loved books ever since he was a baby, but it seemed to be the only thing in which he was interested.
Katherine Tumalan told NBC 4 News: "I noticed things were different; he didn't want to play with other children."
But a year ago, when Jacob's Aunt, Lisa Ferranti, brought him to the animal shelter where she works, he immediately took to the animals. At the Carson Animal Shelter, which Pirate the Pit Bull currently calls home, Jacob's reading has become the highlight. He comes every week on Therapy Thursday, lays down his mat in front of Pirate's cage, takes out his book, and reads aloud. This gives Pirate much needed interaction and allows Jacob to improve his literacy skills. When Jacob learned that Pirate disliked cats, he chose a book about a kitty who wears colorful shoes.
Jacob is lovingly known as "The boy who read to dogs" at Carson. During his time with Pirate, he has learned to cope with noise, which he had a problem with earlier. He can now block anxiety-causing sounds around him and concentrate on the task at hand: reading to this lonesome shelter dog who just needs a little extra love.
The boy and dog's special story-time seems to have aided them both. Jacob's parents are happy to report that he is now reading at third-grade level. Pirate also seems to have a happy ending in sight; he will soon be staying with a rescue worker for further training until he finds his forever home.
Jacob told NBC 4 News: "If I read to the dogs, they will come out of the cages and find homes."
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