After reading Ms. Sandra Harrison’s guest column about why dogs should be removed from the prison, I realized that she truly does not understand the prison dog training program.
I, along with Dorothy Miner, taught weekly classes at ACI as volunteers for over 10 years. Dorothy continued the training after I retired. Dogs that came into the program from rescue groups were often unsocialized, had no manners, weren’t
housebroken, and certainly didn’t have any formal training.
The men patiently worked to restore a dog’s confidence in people. They bathed and groomed the dogs. They taught the dogs manners (don’t jump up on the bed; don’t beg while I’m eating, etc.). In some cases, if they knew that the new owner was disabled, they taught the dog simple tasks to assist the owner like picking up something off the floor, turning off lights.
They got up early every morning regardless of weather and took he dogs outside for exercise.
The men have an extensive library of dog books from which to gather information about specific problems. At one
time, donations of dog shampoo, treats, food, and toys were welcome in the prison. However, a policy change forced the prison to discontinue accepting donations and now the men purchase items for the dogs out of their small monthly allowance.
I am surprised that Ms. Harrison believes the prison should be responsible for vet bills incurred for a dog while the dog is in the prison’s care. The prison does not own the dogs! They are training and housing the dogs at no cost to the shelter! The men who train the dogs love the dogs. For some, the dogs are the one thing that makes them feel good while they are incarcerated.
The men become very attached to these dogs and tears are often shed when the dog is leaving the prison.
I wonder if Ms. Harrison has ever taken the time to visit the prison and watch the training program in action. Has she ever taken a tour of the buildings in which the men and dogs live together? Perhaps if she were to become truly acquainted with the program, her opinion would change.
I watched one dog come into the program who everyone thought would never make it. That dog did a complete turnaround and went out to Purina Farms to be a “greeter.”
I’ve seen dogs come into the program from hoarding situations. It would break your heart to see how timid they were. But
with patience, love, and time, these dogs were able to be adopted! How can Ms. Harrison believe that sitting in a shelter in a noisy, crowded kennel be better than living with a person one-on-one and receiving love and attention?
Ms. Harrison seems to have a very low opinion of people who are incarcerated. What I would say to that is, “There but for the grace of God go I.” She obviously doesn’t know anyone who has been incarcerated. Sometimes it’s for a stupid mistake made while young.
There are good people in prison. They made a mistake, but want to turn their lives around. Just as the prison program turns around the life of a dog, it can turn around the life of a person.
Diane Laratta is the owner of Hollowell Kennels.