It was 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Orchard Mesa library branch and Iris was lying down on the job.
To be fair, lying down is a big part of her job, and it was awfully cozy in her corner of the room.
Iris, a registered Therapy Dogs International dog, visited the branch Wednesday as part of a new expansion of the library system's popular Dog Ears program, where children curl up next to well-trained pooches and practice reading aloud.
In recent years, patrons of the Central, Clifton and Fruita branches have had the opportunity to read with dogs on a regular basis.
The theory behind the program? The dogs are non-judgmental listeners who can lend hesitant readers a little self-confidence.
Plus, as Orchard Mesa branch manager Susie Robertson says, it makes reading fun, even sometimes for kids who don't find it fun in the first place.
"I think it's great," she said. "I think that it will help with literacy for kids who maybe don't like reading as much."
A few months ago, library staffers started talking about expanding the program to include Orchard Mesa and Collbran, according to Robertson. Wednesday was the first day in several years that a Dog Ears program was hosted at the library's Orchard Mesa branch.
Iris claimed the "kids corner" of the library Wednesday evening where 6-year-old Madison Hubbard curled up on a bean bag, an illustrated Mercer Mayer book in hand.
Handler and Dog Ears volunteer Clay Carpenter — accompanied by Cimarron, his 13-year-old border collie mix — took up a post in a nearby room. When Carpenter first adopted Cimarron, the energetic rescue needed a three- to four-mile run, plus another 10 miles running alongside his bike on an average day.
Initially, Carpenter and Cimarron visited hospice patients. After a few years, however, Carpenter felt burnt out. After a few visits to a teacher friend's classroom, he "kind of fell into" the Dog Ears program.
"The concept is the children will be more comfortable reading to a dog," Carpenter said. "It's really cute. The kids read to the dog and of course they're reading to you, too."