Sunday, November 16, 2014

In their words...Ro

July 17, 2014

Here is Ro's speech...

An african american man with corn-rows and a light beard wearing a white t-shirt is standing behind the podium reading from a piece of paper that he is holding with his left hand. His arms are covered with tatoos.
Ro reads his speech.

My name is Romell Goodson.  I am currently the lead handler and in the care of FLD Sammy………..

Before I go any further into who I am and what this program means to me, I want to give special thanks to several individuals for making all this possible:  First and foremost I want to give thanks to Dave-Paula Bardsley for having this great vision to introduce prisoners raising puppies for Future Leader Dog (FLD).  I want to thank Warden Woods for taking a chance here at this facility with such an amazing program, when nobody else would.  I want to thank Deb Donnelly for being open to the idea of extending FLD to MDOC.  ARUS Batho for giving me a chance and selecting me to be a part of the program here in Pike Unit.  For supporting some of the ideas I’ve brought to the program, for being understanding and making me feel like a human being and less like a criminal.  He’s been right there in the trenches with us through all the ups and downs this past year and with all the many hats he’s worn, he’s handled it like the best of them.   

I want to thank Tammy and Patti for bringing me such a wonderful dog and giving me guidance, effective teachings, support and technique every month, always being helpful.  For always bringing those smiles at times when there was nothing to smile about, and making frustrating days….not so frustrating.   

I would like to thank Dr. Bennett for taking time out of his busy schedule and life to come up to this facility, giving all our dogs medical exams monthly.  For giving us puppy raisers medical insight and knowledge to keep our dogs healthy and safe.  Not to mention…..Sharing the Best…… Stories…….I'll never forget you.   

Thank you to all of our outside puppy raisers:  Kim, who has taken all of our dogs on furloughs, helping in the process of training, giving our dogs experiences that only someone from the outside could give, always staying within the guidelines of FLD rules, being such a joy to the program, and sharing some of the best pictures of all our puppies out in society.  Thanks to Frank for taking all our dogs on furloughs.  Thank you Ms. Oja who had been awesome! In helping keep us always informed as to what's been planned, keeping us organized at times, always willing to lend a helping hand and loves all our dogs as if their her own, along with Ms. Tellis who’s been there from the beginning, doing her part in helping socialize the best Leader Dogs possible here at Chippewa Correctional Facility.  

And to those I may not have mentioned, you know who you are…..from myself and all the people involved here at this facility.  I want to say thank you!
Leader Dogs for the Blind and the program at this facility has been more to me than just getting a puppy, raising it for a year & then handing it back to Leader Dog.   

Yes! This program has educated me on all the technical things which is to be expected like:  Health, Nutrition, and medical issues for dogs.  I learned more than how to teach and train my puppy basic obedience skills, socialization, and desensitizing him to different things.  This program means more to me than getting certificates for AKC STAR…..Puppy Award, Canine good Citizen Certificate or passing my puppies IFT examination.  Sure that’s all great but Ive learned so much more and I AM taking so much more with me.   

I've been incarcerated for over a decade and I've grown a lot over the years as well as learned a lot.  I have close to 40 different programs that I've been involved in and I've gotten a great deal out of them which will help in my future.  However, this program has touched me the most:  Before coming to prison I told myself I would do any and everything for my family, by all means necessary.  Rob, steal, sell drugs and even die if need be.  I had very little value for my own life.  That’s what I thought love was.  Boy was I wrong.   

Over the years I've matured and re-evaluated my entire character and way of thinking. I've matured, I've gained knowledge and wisdom, as well as understanding.  Then there was this program that put the icing on the cake and taught me things that I could have possibly never gotten about life, as well as my self.  I'm more patient with the way people and things progress.  Things will happen for the best if you can be patient and stay at it.  I have a sense of humanity now!  I value life.  I've now come to grips that all these years, 38 years to be exact, I've only been existing.  I have yet to live.  There's a huge and beautiful world out there,  with beautiful people in it.  I've met some of the most genuine people while in this program.  I've asked myself over and over again “are they really like this?”  Yes!  These people are just good people.   

Then there's my best buddy in the world, Sammy.  He’s taught me so much.  A Dog!  My Dog! I never knew fully what love was until now.  I've had many dogs but I've never spent time with them like with this one.  He’s there when I wake up.  He’s there when I go to sleep.  He depends on me.  I'm his world, and his main objective is to make me happy.  Sometimes I feel like he's talking to me.  I understand him and he understands me.  We are one, I feel, a lot of the times.  He teaches me sacrifice.  Its easy to be old Ro.  Lose everything and be separated from my family as well as him.  But I learned self-control and how to deal with my emotions and I do what's right because of my dog Sammy.  He depends on me.  The same way my real family and children do!   

The old Ro is dead and Romell has taken his place.  My mother told me a long time ago, "It don’t make no difference how long it takes you to get it as long as you get it." Today I can honestly say that I got it!  The light switch is on!  These are the type of programs that truly change peoples' lives.  We need this one and more like them here in Michigan especially behind these cold walls and razor wired fences.   

There's one more thing that this program and my Dog taught me that I couldn’t have possible gotten anywhere else.  Well he hasn’t taught me yet but that day is coming…….It’s how to give!  I was a taker all my life and I embrace the day when I can finally give the gift of giving back.  My Dog Sammy is ready.  It’s time to do what he was born to do.  Make someone else's life better, and make the visually impaired more independent.  Be a Leader Dog Sammy.  It took a year to get it and now he’s got it.  And now I got it.  I can see the Big picture and its not all about me any more.  This may be the hardest lesson I've ever learned but I'm ready.  Its time to give back!
                                                                        Thank you
                                                                                                            God Bless

A black lab is lying on grass looking at the camera. His tongue is hanging out a bit and he is wearing a blue Future Leader Dog bandana.
FLD Sammy, the puppy Ro raised.

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