July 16, 2013
It was a hot July morning. Inside Pike Unit there was no air-conditioning. With eyes upon us, we filed through the hustle and bustle of the central hub and into a closed-off room on one side. Other rooms behind the guard station had glass walls from floor to ceiling, rooms where inmates gathered to watch TV or hang about, rooms where meals were served and eaten.
The room we entered was crowded with rows of wood-topped tables and molded plastic chairs. Men in blue pants with orange stripes down the side of each leg and matching shirts with stenciled numbers on the back were sitting behind the tables, almost at attention. These were the men selected to become, hopefully, puppy raisers for Leader Dogs for the Blind.
Rob introduced us. Deb talked to the group about Leader Dogs, puppy-raising, and how the program might work at Chippewa. When she opened the floor to questions, the men deferred to one spokesman, who had a spiral notebook on the table in front of him.
One question he asked surprised me. "When we get out, will we still be able to raise puppies for Leader Dogs?" There seemed to be a collective sense of relief when Deb answered, "Sure!"
Deb had one last thing before touring the unit. "Do you guys want to pet them?" The looks on their faces as we handed over our leashes - priceless.
It was Christmas in July.