Sunday, November 16, 2014

In their words...first up, Scott

July 17, 2014
Chippewa

Four inmate raisers took the podium during the Chippewa Puppy Days program. Morrison, Scott, Ro, and Doug opened up to the crowd about what the puppy-raising program has meant to them personally.

There was not a dry eye in the place.

I asked the men if I could have a copy of their speeches. Morrison wanted to rewrite his speech to include things he edited out. Unfortunately, I never got his rewrite. Scott, Ro, and Doug immediately handed me their written words, and gave me permission to share.

Here is Scott's speech...

A head shot of a man wearing glasses and a white t-shirt. He is standing behind a wood podium and is speaking into a microphone. There is a paper poster taped to the front of the podium with the words "Thank you." Behind him is a projector screen and more posters on a yellow wall.
Inmate raiser Scott reads his testimony to the interested crowd.

My name is Scot Libby also known as Winburn. As a seasoned insider with 25-years in, and having lived more years in confinement than as a free person in society, I can stand before you and credibly say that of all the educational, vocational and cognitive therapy based programs I’ve been in, our Prisoner Puppy Raiser Program has been, by far, the most nourishing and rewarding thing. I’ve done as an individual.

As some of you may know, my puppy’s name is Drummond and he and I well be officially separated tomorrow. Thus, it is odd for me to be at the podium with both feelings of impending loss and the never-ending gratitude I have for being selected as one of the first prisoner’s in this state to spear-point something so good and being blessed with the opportunity to help someone gain a sense of freedom and independence of their own.

In life, what sometimes seems to be the end is really a new beginning and that holds true for Drummond and I. He is off to guide school so he can lead, and I have been issued a parole where I can lead by example using the life lessons taught to me by all the volunteers, instructors and mentors I have been in constant contact with over the past 12 months.

Admittedly, incarcerated persons have plenty of free time on their hands. They can utilize it by watching television, sitting around complaining or associating with others who choose to do nothing constructive. Or, they can utilize “time” (the best resource they got) to their advantage by working to acquire a skill and improve their employability prospects. With the puppy raising program, time is well spent and most people give you consideration for what you’re trying to accomplish, the manner you conduct yourself, the way you speak, etc. Even hardened correctional officers show you respect. when a CO tells you that you’re doing a great job raising and training your puppy, even though he’s the meanest guy in the prison, that’s when you see that this program is a good thing and that you’re really breaking down barriers. Furthermore, when you’ve been in prison as long as I have and identified as a number, you want positive feedback because it lets you know you’re doing good and it ain’t hurting nobody.

Interestingly, the Prisoner Puppy Raising Program is done with no financial aid from the state, and is kept afloat by donations, volunteers, and even support from our own prisoner benefit fund. At the same time, our veterinarian services are delivered pro-bono by one of the smartest vets in the Midwest. We get monthly visits and top-flight care, along with the most gracious education and teaching by our mentor (Doc Bennett and his wife Deb). Alone, these people have given us so much. Doc Bennett’s got class, courtesy, charisma, and compassion in his heart that is second to none.

All in all, this program meets the MDOC’s goal of reducing redivisim, enhancing public safety, and saving the taxpayers’ money. In the same vein, together we are all taking a part in making a difference in a blind or visually impaired person’s life, igniting our passion to do something good and inspiring the best in us. Plus, I am now armed with new tools to give me an advantage in the jobs market upon my release. I have learned kennel and house training procedures, received over 12 sessions of dog training techniques, developed ways to apply obedience training, socialization, and how to desensitize canines for different stimuli challenges facing people with dogs. Additionally, I have been taught and watched videos and DVD’s on Karen Pryor clicker training methods and read lots of books on capturing, luring and shaping techniques. Most importantly, I have learned the benefits of “positive reinforcement” training methods, which not only taught my puppy how to be an independent thinker, and trusting, reliable and confident teammate, but also taught me patience, understanding and care.

In closing, I want to say think you to everybody that’s been involved in this program, because there are so many to name. Dave and Paula Bardsley had the vision, Warden Woods had the wisdom and intelligence to try something new, and ARUS Batho brought us to the Grand Canyon and told us to look over to the other side because he was going to build us a bridge to get to the mountaintop. He raised attention to this program, he carried out the Warden’s will, held out two jobs, and created a phenomenon that set Michigan for a destiny in its prison system to give back to communities, and help prisoners become better people, not better ciminals. In years to come, I know his legacy will will not be forgotten and I m so inspired by his leadership, professionalism, and willingness to give his all to something so great. And to Kim, Tammy, Patti, Deb Donnelly, Jessica, Elain, and everyone else, I’m going to make you proud.

A floor level photo of a grown golden retriever lying on a gym floor. The dog is facing the camera and looking right in the leans. He is wearing a blue Future Leader Dog bandana. There are men in the background out of focus sitting on chairs against the far wall.
And here is the puppy Scott raised, FLD Drummond.

3 comments:

  1. What a wonderful story, Is there a way to donate to the program?

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    1. Thank you. You can visit the Leader Dogs for the Blind website to make donation to support the overall mission of "empowering people who are blind, visually impaired or Deaf-Blind with lifelong skills for independent travel through quality Leader Dogs, highly effective client instruction and innovative services." The website is www.leaderdog.org.

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