new dog. The dog was a “Paws in Prison” dog. In “Paws in Prison”, dogs due to be euthanized or who are ill and abandoned are rescued and then trained in my prison units around the state to be family dogs and service dogs. The inmates are the trainers!
“Hmm,” I thought. “I wonder if we know this dog’s trainer?”
But, of course, “Paws in Prison” is in many of our Arkansas prisons and we don’t know all those who are dog trainers. I asked what unit trained the dog. He was trained at the Tucker Maximum Security Unit. That is the unit where we offer our counseling and our meditation group.
“Do you know the trainers?” I asked.
“Yes, they were Charles Lee and Harlan Stonewalter,” said Dent.
Fabulous. I knew them both and I know Charles very well. He is one of the wonderful men that we work with a lot. He has been training dogs since the program started. He loves training dogs. This dog’s name is Arya. She had visited her new family once on a trial visit. It was love at first site with the children and the parents. I told Dent that I would let Charles know that they are Arya’s new family and we will all give him reports about her adjustment.
When I next saw Dent, it was at our Salon Dana fundraiser. The dog had been ‘home’ for about a week. The report: all is going great. They all love their Arya!
And, the next time I saw Charles was when we had our meditation group the following Monday evening. After the group, Charles was helping put up the chairs. I told him that Arya’s new family is one of our Compassion Works for All board members. There are two adults and two wonderful children in her new family, I said, and everything is going great.
Charles is a warm and very calm person but he smiled and said, “I am so glad she is with a good family.”
Then he turned to put away another chair and I could see him take a deep breath and release a mountain load of tension from his shoulders as he sighed loudly. “I always worry until I know that everything is going ok with my dogs. I was going to ask at the dog graduation tomorrow if she was doing well. Now, I don’t have to ask. I am so glad to know.”
He turned and looked at me with his face soft and vulnerable. “She is a wonderful dog and I was worried. I am so glad you told me. Maybe they can send me some pictures of her with them?”
“I know they would be happy to do that. I will ask them.”
I felt his reassurance and completion knowing his Arya was happy. It is a relief that he rarely experiences as his dogs go off to new homes. He turned back to finishing his chairs and said again, “That is such a relief!”
Dogs lives matter too
“Paws in Prisons” is an amazing program to offer these loving relationships to inmates and dogs….and to staff too.
Our friend Renie, who started the “Paws in Prisons” program a few years ago, related another story the other day. She was returning a dog to the prison from a veterinarian visit. The dog was feral and new to the program. She was very spooked and jumpy from her little car trip. When Renie tried to get her out of the car, she leaped out her arms and ran away. Security guards were nearby and they left their posts and raced after the dog. They went after the dog with the same dedication that they would have gone after an escaping inmate!
A few years ago, they would have said, “It is just a dog. Let her go.” But they were not pursuing her because she was fleeing them. They were going after her because she was one of their dogs and they wanted her back safely.
The dog’s inmate trainer was her safe person. They even let him help call for her. But she was gone into the bayou. After many hours of searching, and after a scary charging alligator, security reluctantly gave up when darkness fell. Renie was heartbroken for her little friend.
But, the next day, when the skiddish little thing was hungry, she returned to the prison door that she had fled from. They brought her trainer to the entry and when she saw him, she dashed in the door and into his arms. All was well.
I saw this puppy Monday night as well. She was walking with her trainer down the hall, hyper-vigilant and nervous with every step, and her tail between her shaky legs. When anyone said anything to her, she hid behind her one source of security, her inmate trainer.
I expect that in a few weeks she will find healing and peace within and be ready to go to a new home too.
Inmates, security guards, and pups all bring love and peace to each other after lives with lots of ragged edges. They are trying to make it as they survive among the alligators. Love grows in these shattered hearts bringing everyone together in ever-evolving capacity to love more…
Life at the prison is another meditation as we watch Compassion work for All.