Wednesday, December 3, 2014

On my pledge

December 3, 2014

Tomorrow, FLD Henry and I head north with Deb Donnelly, Puppy Development Supervisor at Leader Dogs for the Blind, and FLD Valor, the German Shepherd puppy she is currently raising. She will also have two little puppies that are destined for raising at the Baraga Correctional Facility.

First we stop at the Chippewa Correctional Facility, where Deb will conduct a training session with the teams. We will leave with FLD Ashley (she is due to return to Leader Dog for her formal training), and spend an overnight somewhere between Kincheloe and Baraga. (Keep in mind we'll have two little puppies, our own two puppies and Ashley.)

Second stop, Baraga Correctional Facility, where Deb will hand the two new puppies over to their raisers and conduct another training session. When we depart, we will take FLDs Axel and Bear with us, the first two puppies to come to the facility. It is their time also to return to Leader Dogs for the Blind for training. Another night on the road, again with five, albeit older, puppies.

Wish us luck.

And then forgive me, readers. I confess that I hit the wall in my blog-catching-up marathon. I have not fulfilled my pledge.

This blog IS "caught up" through August 2014, but no further. Write as I might, I found there is too much to share (and too many photos to process) to zip through without giving the story the attention it deserves.

You may have noticed no mention of puppy counselor Tammy in the above itinerary. Late in August we learned that the Leader Dog prison program has been suffering from a good problem - it has grown too quickly! Three prisons in Iowa, one each in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and three now in Michigan (one in Jackson started earlier in the year), plus, two more correctional facilities in Michigan (one in the UP and one in mid-Michigan) are waiting to get started. 

Who knew? Being successful is great, but it can still be a problem.

Leader Dog had budgeted to hire a dedicated staff person to oversee the prison puppy-raising program, but that position would not be filled until January of 2015. The program needed someone right away. There were no "official" Leader Dog protocols in place for things like furloughs and prison-readiness. Puppy counselors at the facilities already on line were doing the best they could, but it became clear that consistency was lacking. It was too much for just volunteers to handle.

So, effective October 1, Leader Dog assigned Deb Donnelly the task of assessing the situation (and taking over the monthly visits) until the new person came on board. Puppy counselors were pulled, but fortunately I was invited to continue documenting the program.

Thus, Tammy and I had our last UP prison visit together in September. I promise to post about that trip (or, as it turned out, our trips).

In October, Deb scheduled her prison visits to start in Iowa; she came to the UP via Minnesota and Wisconsin. FLD Henry and I met her in Baraga and followed along to Chippewa. I will post about this journey as well.

In November, a family trip precluded my going to the UP with Deb. I thought the break would be enough for me to catch up! Not so. To the inmate raisers (who cannont access this blog, except through their families), I offer my sincerest apology. Can you bear with me? Because I will continue...

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