Going to Prison





March 7, 2013, I attended a graduation ceremony at the Potosi Correctional Facility. This was an unusual graduation in many ways, starting with the fact that the graduates were dogs. Four of them were DCAWS dogs: Butch, Farran, Dolly and Star. I guilted Melinda in attending with me even though it was clear she really didn’t want to go because of her ultra busy schedule, but we both decided this was an obligation. Ultimately, it was an event transcending expectations. Tears were in our eyes when our shyest dog pranced through the auditorium on a leash with the handlers, her head held high. We heard the stories of all of the dogs. None had been without problems. In most facilities, all would have been put to sleep rather than given a new lease on life. For three months, these dogs underwent an intensive training program. Two “offenders” were assigned to each dog. We heard talks from the program directors, the chaplain, the warden, two of the offenders and other supporters of EDNAS. We saw not only what the training program meant to the dogs but also to their handlers. The two who spoke effectively vocalized how they felt, that they had taken from society and given nothing back and now they had a chance to help in some way. We were allowed to mingle and talk with all present and to hug “our” dogs one last time. Homes are found for most of the dogs before the program is over, so they can go home after graduation. Butch is even training as an assist dog for his person. For three years he was homeless, wanted by no one … and now he serves and is loved. We who care for homeless dogs can identify with the handlers in that they have learned to love their dogs and then they have to let them go and, while we are sad at saying goodbye, know there are always more of God’s creatures to be helped so we start all over again. We already have three more DCAWS dogs ready for the next cycle. Somehow it was a day when we were all more alike than different, all there for the same reason. Instead of being afraid in this setting, we were uplifted in a way beyond description. The prison officials are very pleased with the program and have reason to believe it will spread to correctional facilities all over the United States. Our wonderful volunteer Allison is responsible for finding out about this program and getting us connected, and we can never thank her enough.