OGDEN -- Jesus Pedraza picked a book he thought Heart, the black Lab, might enjoy.
The 7-year-old North Ogden boy read to the therapy dog "The Hallo-Wiener," the story of a dachshund teased by the neighborhood dogs after his owner dresses him up in a hot-dog costume.
Heart, sitting on a blanket in the Weber County Library children's area, sat calmly and tried to look interested.
"I think he liked it," Jesus said of Heart, who gratefully chomped his reward, a bit of carrot.
"I think his favorite part was when the cats scared the mean dogs away. He really paid attention. My dogs at home don't pay attention at all."
Jesus and other children turned out en masse for the last week of the Ulti-mutt Read-a-thon, a chance for kids to read books to dogs. The library hosted the event each Wednesday afternoon in June.
"It's just something that gets the children reading during the summer," said Deborah Smith, youth services program manager.
"We have three to five dogs every week from Intermountain Therapy Dogs. The kids call and schedule their 15 minutes. The kids are so cute, and the dogs are so patient. Half the time, the dogs fall asleep."
Besides Heart, the final week's canine listeners were Halima, also a black Lab, and Flocki, a large white great Pyrenees.
All three therapy dogs also have day jobs, visiting nursing homes, working with people who have Alzheimer's disease, autism, psychiatric problems, Down syndrome or other conditions that can make it hard to connect with fellow humans.
The dogs also work at area schools during the school year, sitting with children who are reading.
Ogden resident Michelle Mullis brought daughter Anna, 6.
"She loves to come see the dogs," Mullis said of her young reader. "Kids get to read to somebody who doesn't mind if they make a mistake or have a problem with a word. Dogs are nonjudgmental."
Dog owners Erika Daines (Flocki), Debbie McAllister (Halima) and Alicia Crandall (Heart) also are nonjudgmental, gently helping children with words, definitions or concepts and cheering good work, all while making sure the leashed dogs stay close.
"Flocki never criticizes," Daines said.
"At Northpark Elementary, she reads with children (in kindergarten through second grade) who lack the confidence to read aloud for adults. The dog just lies there. The children talk to dogs like they can understand. They might say, 'Have you ever seen an elephant?' and when Flocki doesn't answer, they explain."
Flocki does understand some words, her owner said.
"She has quite a few words. She has a lot of commands, and she knows what 'go for a walk' and 'get a treat' mean. Most of her vocabulary has to do with things that are of interest to her."
Sidney Noorda, 6, of Ogden, read "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back," but her dog didn't seem bothered by the subject matter.
Anna Mullis tolerated a sloppy thank-you lick.
"I don't mind that much," she said with a giant smile. "I like coming. I come here because the dogs need me."
Amalia Resurreccion, 9, of Clearfield, enjoyed the novelty of the experience.
"I love reading, and it was very fun to read to that dog," she said, holding her new bookmark with the photo of her canine reading partner.
"I never had a dog," Amalia said. "I have two cats and a snake. The bird died."
Abby Cheney, 11, of Ogden, also read to the dogs for the first time this week.
"I think he likes the attention, sitting and getting ear scratches," Abby said of Heart. "I liked the dog, and he liked the attention."
And did Abby believe Heart understood the story?
Abby leaned in close, and whispered: