Friday, December 27, 2013

It's a go!

July 16, 2013
I was aware of men watching us. Some nodded hello. We went up a staircase and down a long, shiny-floored hall lined with wooden doors. These two-man rooms were not cells with iron bars, they were like dormitory rooms, fitted with bunk beds and two desks. Except for those of the potential puppy-raisers - one desk had been removed to make room for a metal crate.

We exited the building into the larger yard. I was paying attention to FLD Dutch, who was being his usual friendly "golden-deceiver" self, so details of our exit escape me now. The hot summer sun burned down on the backs of men who lifted weights, played basketball, and ran or walked the gravel track along the fence. Our puppies were just as interested in the inmates as they were of us.

The busy Pike Unit would afford ample opportunities for the inmate raisers to work with their puppies on self-control.

Back in the administration building, prison employees took our mug shots (our puppies were exempt). We filled out paperwork and were issued official ID cards. We would exchange our driver's licenses for these IDs when next we visited. FLD Dutch and the other puppies got lots of belly rubs, and we were released.

One month later, Deb and Tammy brought the first two puppies to Chippewa. FLD Bravo and FLD Drummond, both male Golden Retrievers, were handed over on August 14, 2013.

Here is part of the email that Tammy sent out afterwards:
It was an awesome experience!  I was wondering how Deb and I were going to bring in 2 puppies, our puppies, food, crates and supplies but there was no need to worry.  We were met by plenty of willing people to help out.  Oh the smiles we saw on the faces throughout the system.  The guys were waiting patiently in the classroom and you could feel the excitement in the air.  Paperwork was done.  Then Deb went over rules and the Puppy Timeline along with training sessions.  Puppies had to be parked and everybody marched out willingly and excitingly announced, “He parked!”  Puppies slept, played and worked.  Concerns were discussed.  These guys so want to do the right thing and asked so many great questions.  They were already making plans on how to handle certain situations.
On this trip we only had two pups to hand out so the other guys worked with the pup Deb had and my pup, Harper.  As we were approaching dinner and our time there was coming to an end, Deb made an announcement, "Hey, would you guys like to keep our puppies overnight, too?"  Even bigger smiles erupted.  So Harper and Dodger became prison pups too!  A scramble was made to set up crates, water and feed pups and park pups again.  I was assured that Harper would receive great care and I had no doubt of that!  Deb and I left and I think we were walking on clouds too.

The next morning we arrived to see the guys parking their pups like they had been doing it for years. We were told that the guards and other inmates didn't even notice the pups at all.  "We have invisible dogs!" the guys announced proudly!  (Isn't that what we puppy raisers strive to have the dog that nobody knows is there.)  We met in the dining room and the guys excitedly talked about their night-"He got up at 3 a.m. and parked and right back to bed."  “He got up at 6 a.m. and was scratching and whining so I took him out and he parked.” “He fell asleep under the desk so I gently picked him up and put him in his crate.  He didn't even wake up!"

One guy stood there with his pup in his arms and announced that this was the first dog he had touched in 23 years!

I think we felt like Santa Claus.  I am still smiling.
Six men stand and two men squat in front of a brick wall with two windows. Three of the men standing are holding small golden retriever puppies, one of the men squatting has an bit older golden retriever sitting in front of him.
Chippewa puppy raisers pose with their first two Future Leader Dog puppies, Bravo and Drummond (center), as well as FLD Dodger (brought by Deb Donnelly) and FLD Harper, Tammy's puppy.

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