Lila the dog teaches English

This is a heartwarming story from the Literacy Volunteers of Collier County.  Many thanks to Rita Bleasdale and Ingrid Fernandez, as they both contributed to this newsletter article that is being posted here with their consent.

Lila, an eight-month-old mixed breed dog, is helping a woman, illiterate in her own language as well as in English, learn to speak English.

Lila belongs to Ingrid Fernandez, Program Coordinator and a tutor with Literacy Volunteers of Collier County (LVCC). She acquired the dog from The Naples Humane Society when Lila was a puppy, changed the animal’s name from Fiona to Lila (which translates to “playful” in some languages), and occasionally took Lila to work. It was at the LVCC offices that Ingrid discovered Lila could teach English.


“When I want to show my student what a word means, I give her a picture but when it comes to verbs, actions are difficult to demonstrate in pictures,” said Ingrid, who added that she realized by using Lila, her student began to understand action words.  “When my student says ‘sit’ or asks for ‘high five’ Lila does as she is told and if my student makes a mess of it and doesn’t say the correct word, Lila does not get impatient.

Ingrid’s student, who started work when she was eleven years old in her native country in Central America and never attended school, meets for her English lessons with Lila twice a week. “My student really trusts Lila and enjoys the welcome my dog gives her at every lesson,” said Ingrid.

Using a Book

Lila, a mix of Catahoula, also known as a Louisiana leopard dog, Great Dane and Black Labrador, is a fine-looking, well-behaved dog who is proving that there is more to learning English than using a book.


LVCC is a non-profit organization based in Naples, and its mission is to teach illiterate and non-English speaking adults to read, write and speak English, using trained volunteers. If you are interested in becoming a tutor, contact LVCC at (239)262-4448 or click here.

Does your literacy program have special helpers like Lila?  If so, let us know about them in the comment section below.

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