Back in ancient times when I drove a concrete mixer, I met a couple of drivers who partially convinced me that I’d missed something by not going to jail. Not so much that I was in a hurry to knock off a bank, mind you, but clearly my life experiences had a gap. More surprising is that my sweetie has spent more time behind bars than I have. In fact, she seems to be making a bit of a habit of it. Darn near monthly, she’s landing in the Idaho Correctional Institution in Orofino, ID. Last night, she brought home a former inmate.
Meet Summer. Summer was abandoned in a home filled with feces and frightened to death. Joyce Keefer, a local Realtor who already does a tremendous amount of good work for the local Humane Society, discovered the poor dog (along with a trio of kittens) and alerted authorities. Summer ended up in the care of the Lewis Clark Animal Shelter and my sweetie. She was understandably skittish and had some trust issues when she arrived but started to come out her shell with the help of the staff at the Shelter.
Then, Summer went to jail with my sweetie accompanied by five other dogs. They were the introductory group for a new program at Orofino. The program is called PAWS (Paroling Animals With Skills) and was started by Lieutenant Earl Johnson. Started originally to help the dogs, the program has been even more transforming for the inmates/trainers. The dogs live with the men inside. Each dog has a pair of trainers and get training daily. KLEW-TV ran a segment on the program with my sweetie and Lieutenant Johnson.
The evidence nationwide, not just at Orofino, is that the program increases social interaction and teaches skills including patience, responsibility, compassion, and self-esteem for the prisoners. For the dogs, they get the benefit of 24/7 training. Both get a healthy and needed dose of unconditional love, perhaps the most transformative substance known to humanity.
Summer is a boxer mix. She’s sweet-tempered (she let our 2 year-old granddaughter pet her). She’s still a bit timid, but fully trained and available for adoption. If you’re not ready for a dog but want to support the program, you can donate at the Lewis Clark Animal Shelter website. They have a special wishlist on Amazon or you can donate at the button to the side. Volunteers are always welcome and appreciated.
If you meet Lieutenant Johnson on the street in Orofino, thank him for all the good work he's doing, please.
To watch an inspiring video of the program in Massachusetts, click here.
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