Thursday, November 10, 2016

One Thousand Lives Saved and Counting


Miley came into the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution’s P.E.T.S.  Program much the same as any other shelter dog.  She was a stray, and like all too many stray dogs, she was never claimed by her owners.  Miley fits the description of many dogs who find themselves homeless.  She is a young adult, wild, and was untrained.  What sets Miley apart from the rest is that she is the one thousandth dog brought into the program by the Humane Society Serving Clark County.

Quite a few years ago the P.E.T.S. Program was approached by Krissi Hawke of that Humane Society.  She was hoping that their small shelter would be allowed to bring dogs to the prison for rehabilitation and training.  Thus began a long string of shelter dog success stories.  Many of the dogs entering the program over the years were virtually unadoptable because of behavior problems and lack of training. 

 Each of them stayed eight to ten weeks and when they left, they were housebroken, socialized, healthy, and trained.  Most of them had approved adopters before they left the program and they were able to move right into their new homes after their prison stay.  Krissi took great pride in the program and was personally responsible for the fact that the adoption rate for these dogs was near 100%.  Krissi moved on to another shelter shortly before Miley came, but she dearly wanted the fact that 1,000 dogs had been saved by the program to be publicized.  

Almost all of the dogs coming into the P.E.T.S. Program are in need of serious help.  Many are unsocialized and fearful.  Many have behavior problems.  Many could be called hyperactive.  Almost every one of them is untrained.  Some come from tragic situations such as animal hoarding or cruelty cases.  Some had lived as feral animals.  Some are coping with heartworm treatment.  Some had never lived indoors.  Many had never bonded with a human until being placed with their inmate handlers.  Prison may be a nightmare for the incarcerated, but it is “heaven on earth” to the dogs.  For most, this is the first time they have felt safe, loved, and cared for.  The program lives up to its full name:  Pets Educated to Survive.

Many people are to be thanked for the success of this program.  The inmate handlers do the hard work of rehabilitating and training the dogs, and handling their day to day needs.  The dogs are not kenneled; they live with their primary and secondary handlers 24/7.  The men become bonded to these dogs, but willingly give them up at the end of their stays so that they can help another needy animal.  

Many other people are involved as well.  Lieutenant Karen Moore and James Stansbery are the AOCI employees who handle the day-by-day running of the program.  The program instructors – Marilyn Roth Basinger, Bonnie Gilbert and myself – have dedicated years to working with the men and their dogs, helping them to become expert trainers and caregivers.  The shelter staff plays a big part in the success of the program.  And many Correction Officers and other employees of the prison go out of their way to help socialize the dogs.  We never would have the opportunity to celebrate our one-thousandth program dog without their help. 

Back to Miley - she is a happy and pretty dog, medium sized, mostly white with a scattering of gray brindle patches.  She was classified as a shepherd mix, but there are at least a dozen breeds in her background.  Her handler, Willie Maag, has been working hard to get her ready for her forever home.  She is almost ready to take her “final exam,” the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Test, thanks to Willie’s efforts.  Miley is well-trained, active and playful, and notices everything.  She loves women and is comfortable around men.  She could be the perfect pet for an active family – and she is looking for a home. 

 If you are interested in possibly adding Miley to your family, please contact the Humane Society Serving Clark County at 937-399-2917 or through their web site at  Prison Dog 1,000 deserves a loving, forever home.

By Dorothy Miner

Dorothy Miner is a long-time dog obedience and tracking instructor, judge of canine events, and author.  She teaches weekly classes for the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution’s PETS Program and provides training and consultation under the banner of “Sidekicks” and “Training for Dogs and Their People.”