Sometime after the arrival of the first Future Leader Dog puppies at the Chippewa Correctional Facility in August, 2013, Baraga Warden Thomas Mackie made a trip across the UP to Kincheloe. He had no idea what marvels were unfolding at the prison where he had previously worked.
"I walked in and something felt different," Mackie said. "It was actually palpable."
Mackie said he asked the Chippewa staff what was going on. A puppy-raising program? He returned to Baraga and told his Baraga Correctional Facility staff, "Get over there and find out what's what."
So that is exactly what they did. Resident Unit Manager (RUM) Steve Niemi and other Baraga employees sat in during our October 3, 2013 training session with the inmate raisers at Chippewa; they didn't watch the puppies so much, they watched the men.
|Prison puppy-raisers practice "meet & greets" with their Future Leader Dog puppies during our October training session at Chippewa Correctional Facility.|
As the Baraga team left Niemi said, "We want 10 puppies right now!"
It is amazing how quickly things can happen when those in charge want it to happen. On November 21, 2013, Deb Donnelly, Puppy Development Supervisor at Leader Dogs for the Blind made another trip north with myself and fellow puppy-counselor and raiser, Tammy Bartz.
First stop: Chippewa Correctional Facility. The inmate raisers gave us a presentation with their puppies, showing off what they had learned in a short three months. It was an impressive display.
|Two Future Leader Dog puppies sit calmly while their handlers do a very nice "meet & greet." This was part of the November presentation by inmate raisers at the Chippewa Correctional Facility.|
Deb left her cc'd dog Strider with the raisers and she and I took FLD August and FLD Sammy on furlough with us to Baraga. On November 22, 2013, we met with Warden Mackie and his staff and toured Housing Unit 8, the level one, minimum security unit that would serve as the puppy-raising home. Again, the team, led by Steve Niemi with Assistant Resident Unit Supervisors (ARUSs) Tammy Gajewski and Dennis Gerard, did their homework.
Inmate raisers were screened and selected; each had to pass a test and write an essay. There would be three raisers for each puppy because here inmates occupied a three-man half-walled open room they called a "pod." The prisoners constructed a prototype crate and installed it in a pod for our approval, and a try out by FLD Harper and the puppies we had brought. (Great idea, just needs to be a bit bigger.) In addition, local veterinarian Dr. Donna LeClaire was on board to provide services.
The New Year would bring good news to the Baraga Correctional Facility. Puppies would be due to arrive in early January 2014.