Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The next day

July 18, 2014

The day after Puppy Days at the Chippewa Correctional Facility was a watershed moment. Scott's feelings of "impending loss" were about to become real. FLDs Drummond and Bravo, the first puppies in the Leader Dogs for the Blind prison puppy-raising program in Michigan, were returning to the Rochester Hills campus for their formal guide dog training. Joining the two golden retrievers was FLD Granite, a "finishing" puppy that came to Chippewa some months ago.

It was their time.

More than a dozen men and one woman are standing or sitting around a room. The men are wearing prison garb, blue or green pants with white t-shirts or blue shirts. The woman is wearing blue jeans and a yellow shirt. There are many puppies with the men, some golden retrievers, black and yellow labs, and one german shepherd. The woman is going to each team and greeting the handler and dog.
Practicing meet & greets.
But first. Tammy-the-taskmaster wanted the group to do a few exercises before she completed the separation paperwork with Scott, Morrison and Jeremy, the raisers of the three dogs. We applied Frontline on all the puppies, practiced meet & greets, handler's exams and "arounds."

Then we chatted about the Puppy Days celebration; we decided it all went very well. The men were thrilled with how receptive the guests were to them. Joe said when the presentations were over and the guests were invited to partake in pizzas and deserts prepared by inmates in the prison's culinary program, he thought everyone would rush over to the food tables.

"Instead, they all got in line to meet all of us," Joe said. "They shook our hands and told us we were doing a great job." None of the men expected this kind of reaction.

One woman and three men are standing in line, talking to the prisoners that are standing against the wall in the gym. The inmate on the right is wearing blue pants and a white t-shirt. He is holding a small black lab puppy and leaning toward another man and listening. The woman, wearing a yellow shirt, is on the far left, followed by a man wearing a yellow vest, then a man wearing blue jeans and a blue shirt, then a bearded man wearing khakis and a royal blue shirt.
Inmate raiser Joe (right) holds FLD Teysen while being greeted by Dave Bardsley and Lions Club members.

But there it was, a transcendence of circumstance. These were men after all, paying their dues, attempting to bring positive change to themselves by creating opportunities of independence to strangers they will never meet. Raising puppies!

On to business. The men shared stories about the three pups that were about to leave.

Raisers Morrison and Cody revealed how nervous they were when young little Bravo arrived. "He's a sensitive puppy," they said, nicknaming him "Budbuddog." ("All one word," they said.) Morrison told a story about Bravo having an accident that elicited laughter around the room. "I had poop on my leg and in my new Nikes!" he said.
A man wearing blue prison pants and shirt with an orange vest is kneeling on his left knee next to a golden retriever, who is standing, looking toward the camera. The man is looking at the dog, with his left arm draped over the back of the dog, and holding up a certificate with his right hand. There are two men and a woman in the background.
Morrison and FLD Bravo show off the "thank you" certificate from Leader Dog.

Everyone agreed that the big golden was a protector and guardian of the new puppies. "He let Ashley walk on his back in the snow," they said. The men shoveled pathways in the deep snow. Ashley was walking on top of the banks and couldn't make the jump over the chasm to the other side. Drummond positioned himself so the pup could use him as a bridge.
A floor level shot of a small yellow lab (left) lying next to a large golden retriever, who is also lying on the tile floor. The little puppy has her chin on the floor, looking at the camera. The golden's head is up and he is looking off to the right.
FLD Adell (left) lies safely next to FLD Drummond.

A man dressed in the priosn blue uniform and an orange vest is squatting down with a golden retriever on the left. The man's right arm is wrapped around the shoulders of the dog. The dog is standing and looking at the camera. The man is holding a certificate in his left hand. There is a woman and two men in the background.
Scott and FLD Drummond with the Leader Dog "thank you" certificate.

The teams were afraid of this finishing puppy when he came to Pike Unit. "The first night he growled like a golden with a toy in his mouth," Jeremy said. And Granite wouldn't let them get close - he came a long way with Jeremy's help.
A man wearing the blue prison uniform and an orange vest is squatting next to a golden retriever. The golden is sitting down on the right side and is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. The man has his left arm draped over the dog's shoulders and is holding up a certificate in his right hand. The man has a very big smile on his face. There are three men in the background.
Jeremy and FLD Granite are proud of their Leader Dog "thank you" certificate.

Doug added a story about Tammy's FLD Harper, who had spent some time in Pike Unit with him. One morning when Harper woke him up because he needed to "park," Doug stopped to use the restroom on the way. Little Harper couldn't wait and Doug had a mess to clean up. "I learned you can't procrastinate with a puppy," he said.

Two men are sitting down behind a yellow lab, who is sitting on the tile floor in front of the man on the left. The man on the left is wearing green pants and a white t-shirt. The man on the right is wearing blue prison pants and a white tank shirt and a blue baseball cap. The men are holding up a certificate between them.
John (left) and Harlan (right) hold up FLD Ekco's AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate.

The guys encourage Ro to demonstrate his method of urging the laid-back FLD Sammy to "get a move on." Amongst cheers, Ro danced across the room with the lab singing a do-rop ditty. Too bad we couldn't get a recording!

An african american wearing prison blue pants and a white t-shirt is walking toward the camera with a leash in his hands, looking down to a young black lab at his side. There are men sitting all around three sides of the room behind the man and dog.
Ro and FLD Sammy kickin' it out.


A man wearing an orange vest is on the right holding a golden retriever with his left arm and hand. The golden is sitting in front of him in a van with his head pressed against the man's chest. There is a dog crate in the background with a yellow lab looking out.
Morrison says good-bye to FLD Bravo...
The man wearing the blue prison uniform and an orange vest is turning away from the van. He is looking down facing the camera with a strained expression on his face.
...not an easy task.

A man wearing a blue shirt and an orange vest and glasses is leaning in toward a dog airline crate that is in the back of a white van. The crate door is open and there is a golden retriever sniffing the man's left hand.
Scott leaves a treat for FLD Drummond.
The man in the blue shirt and orange vest is turning away from the van and looking at the camera with a sad face. A woman wearing blue jeans and a blue t-shirt is closing the door of the airline crate.
Tammy latches the door of Drummond's crate as Scott turns away.

A man wearing a blue shirt and an orange vest is reaching his right hand toward a golden retriever that is sticking his head out of an airline crate. The man is facing away from the camera toward the dog.
Jeremy reaches toward FLD Granite for a last pet.

Two airline crates are in the back of a van with two golden retrievers in them. The dogs are both standing up looking out from the crates. There are two leashes on the floor of the van in front of the crates and a blue Future Leader Dog bandana.
FLDs Granite and Drummond.
Two airline crates hold a yellow lab (left) and a golden retriever. The dogs are lying down looking toward the camera. The crates are in a van and there is a leash on the floor in front of them.
FLD Grant, who was just visiting, and FLD Bravo.


  1. Patti, the picture "not an easy task" captured the moment perfectly!! I can feel Corey's pain! I hope you are well Patti and enjoying the snow!!

    1. Thanks Kim! We only have a few inches, so I'm hoping for more. Take care!

  2. That was a great moment to thank the raisers for their commitment to help someone else.

  3. I can't those photos, but my heart breaks for them. It always makes me think of my puppy raisers and how I can never thank them enough. I hope these guys get to hear thank you.

    1. I'm sorry you can't see the pictures, Jess, but if you could your heart would break even more. I am sure that your presence at Chippewa helped the guys feel the good they are doing. Your words always meant a lot to them, and ALL of us!