The five-year-old stocky French Bulldog places one foot onto a raised platform made from PVC and stretched canvas, then follows it with a second. Bella follows through on the command to “Place” by climbing all the way onto the platform. This will be the last skill practiced during this February morning’s one-hour training session. Bella glances up at her handler for reassurance that she has done well. Geno leans into her and gives her a hug, and she waggles her tongue happily as she soaks in the praise. With a bond like this, it’ll be tough to say goodbye, but that’s exactly what will happen in six weeks
To read more check out my post A Second Chance for Bella. In that article, I introduce Second Chance Pups, a program pairs inmates at the Nebraska State Penitentiary with unwanted dogs in need of training. Selected inmates work together with a professional trainer, prison staff, and volunteers for a nine-week-rotation to provide dogs with basic obedience training, socialization, behavior modification, grooming and daily one-on-one attention. Since starting in the fall of 2004, over 220 inmates have participated, and about 350 dogs have found homes.
Boomer isn’t happy about having his nails clipped. The two-and-a-half-year-old, mostly black and white German Shepherd mix, shoves his full weight against the stranger whose arms are wrapped around him. Boomer strains anxiously, panting heavily. The man uses quiet words and gentle strokes to help Boomer settle. Then Boomer squirms again, and blood oozes from his a nail cut too close to the quick. A man standing next to Boomer pats his head. The woman with the nail clippers puts them down and applies styptic powder to the bleeding nail. Boomer’s eyes are wide with apprehension, but as the people around him shower him with praise he allows the rest of his nails to be clipped.
To read more, check out my post Orientation Day. In this article, I share that about twenty people and eight dogs are crowded together in a back room of the penitentiary’s recycling building. The dogs are restless and scared, many having come from local shelters and rescues. Some of the fourteen inmates are newcomers to the program and aren’t sure what to expect. Then there’s Andy and me. Being first-time visitors, we’re both nervous and excited. But we settle into our work: Andy with his photos and I with my notes. Over the next few hours, we gradually begin to learn about this amazing program.
Training with SCP
Ripley wasn’t like the other dogs the handler had trained. The shy four-year-old English Lab had been used in a breeding operation and didn’t know anything about the world or normal life as a pet. While Thomas enjoyed watching her come out of her shell, he found her difficult to work with. Their first week together, she was quick to burn out. After just a few minutes of work she’d just put her head down and stare at the floor. It didn’t matter what treat her handler offered, she wasn’t going to look at him again. She was the “poutiest” dog Thomas had ever trained.
To read more, check out my post Training with SCP. In this article, I share about how handlers train the dogs. To find dogs for the program, SCP looks for owner surrenders, unclaimed strays, and returned shelter dogs. Whatever the source, the program seeks dogs that require training before they can be considered adoptable. The only restriction is that all dogs they take on must get along with other dogs. The selected dogs are then matched with that rotation’s handlers. The most experienced handlers will get the most challenging dogs. Quiet, patient handlers will get dogs that don’t respond well to loud voices or harsh corrections. Handlers that prefer big dogs will get big dogs. Each dog typically receives a primary handler and a secondary handler. If the primary handler isn’t available for any reason—for example, if he has a doctor’s appointment or a job that he can’t bring the dog to—the secondary handler will look after the dog. The program is designed to be a good experience for everyone involved.
Graduation Day at SCP
Warden Rich Cruickshank has just finished speaking at the graduation day of the 33rd rotation at Second Chance Pups, a program that pairs inmates at the Nebraska State Penitentiary with unwanted dogs in need of training. There’s a round of applause from the audience. Gathered together in a small room at the prison are a wide assortment of people and animals: the leaders of the SCP program, the inmates and dogs who participated in this rotation, representatives from the prison and from various shelters, and other invited guests including my husband, Andy, and me.
To read more, check out my post Graduation Day with SCP. I hope you have enjoyed a peek into the SCP program and will check out similar programs in your local area.
This post is part of the Small Victories line-up. Check out others by clicking on the below graphic.