Each month, Wayward Dogs highlights a story from Missouri’s Puppies for Parole program, a nationally renowned model for saving shelter dogs while helping human offenders. Instead of focusing on an adoptable P4P canine graduate, today’s post looks at a new way that this program will benefit people and dogs in Missouri.
From Shelter Dogs to Therapy Dogs
A recent partnership announced between the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) and Bridle Ridge Acres, a comprehensive health care center in Hillsboro, will connect animals from the state’s Puppies for Parole program and children with special needs.
Owned and operated by Community Treatment Inc. (COMTREA), Bridle Ridge is a 45-acre campus that will offer general practice medical care, dental care for children, behavioral health care, mental health care, substance abuse care and family therapy, as well as equine and canine therapy.
“Animal Assisted Intervention is a promising frontier in health and mental health,” says Judy Finnegan, COMTREA associate vice president.
“We are so pleased that through our partnership with the Department of Corrections,” she says, “COMTREA will have specially trained ‘helper dogs’ that will benefit many in our community. It seems like this partnership completes a circle: A dog is saved – a dog is trained and a person in need is helped.”
Following basic obedience training with offender handlers at Potosi Correctional Center, specially chosen Puppies for Parole dogs will go through additional professional training for canine therapy.
Certain selected dogs will also be offered to nursing homes, schools, hospitals and other institutions.
According to DOC Director George Lombardi, this partnership is an ideal arrangement.
“Since the program’s inception, it’s always been a vision of mine to have our offenders train dogs for those with special needs,” he says. “This partnership is a natural fit for us, and I hope it serves as a catalyst for many other relationships with organizations that assist those with special needs.”
Do you agree with me that this a great development for Puppies for Parole? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
To browse adoptable P4P graduates, check out the currently available dogs.
I blog because I’m a compulsive writer.
But I don’t put those words on the screen just so I can sit and stare at them.
Like anyone else, I put sentences together and send them out into cyberspace in the hopes that they’ll resonate with somebody else.
I write to express a point of view. I write to tell a story or share facts. I write to learn. I write to connect.
In 2012, writing on this blog, mostly about dogs, allowed me to connect with more awesome people than I can count. Here’s a look at a few of them:
1. Katty De Lux, Pin Up from the Paris of the Plains
Interacting offline with Kansas City’s blogging community introduced me to many amazing people, including Katty De Lux, a model, blogger and animal lover who adds smile, style and sass to every situation. She wowed me with her mad networking skills when we co-hosted a fundraiser for Midwest Adopt-a-Bull.
2. Chris Sailors, Owner, Kennel Creek Pet Resort
The guy with the best-behaved dogs at the Great KC Pet Expo also runs the nicest pet resort in Kansas City. In 2012, Kennel Creek Pet Resort changed my opinion about what to expect from dog daycare and boarding. I’m proud to call owner Chris Sailors a professional collaborator and friend.
3. Amy Oleson, Owner, Fido Fetch Photography
Amy Oleson was one of the first people to join KC Pittie Pack. Her beautiful pictures helped generate attention for our dog walking group. Less than a year later, she’s now pursuing her dog-umentary photography dream full-time and expecting her first baby.
4. Mike Kitchens, Founder, Midwest Adopt-a-Bull
The story of how pit bull dogs stole Mike Kitchens’ heart generated massive views for this blog in February. Four months later, when his brand new rescue group was just getting started, my big, black foster dog returned from a second failed adoption. Mike could see that we needed support and made space for Charlie Machete.
5. George Lombardi, Director, Missouri Department of Corrections
The man who oversees Missouri’s prison system cares about rehabilitation – of people and animals. Under George Lombardi’s leadership, Missouri correctional facilities have implemented Missouri Puppies for Parole, the nation’s most extensive prison-based dog training and adoption program.
6. Stacy Ideus, Owner, Stacy Ideus Photography
I’m certain Stacy Ideus and I first communicated through the walls of our mothers’ abdomens. Our lives have moved in very different directions since we were born a few days apart in Beatrice, Nebraska. But family, dogs, photography and blogs are bringing my oldest friend and me close again in our third decade.
When we were kids, Shawn Timm and I were the little girls in our 4-H club who each had very obedient but very big and scary-looking dogs. She still has a mastiff (and a therapy-certified springer spaniel), but my black-and-tan went from a Rottweiler to a miniature pinscher. But we are both still crazy about dogs. And our dogs send Trader Joe’s treats to each other.
In 2011, my long lost high school friend Miranda Loehle found me and my blog and – from halfway across the country – introduced me to a fellow dog blogger in my neighborhood. In 2012, Miranda continued supporting this blog, Our Waldo Bungie and countless others. Sadly, it was also the year her beloved dog Brutus crossed the rainbow bridge. He was lucky to be loved by her.
My cousin Megan and I didn’t play together as kids. But if we lived in the same city, we would definitely “play” together as adults. In 2012, we realized we have a lot more than family in common. She’s a marketing manager for a farmers’ market in Lincoln, Nebraska, and she can make things like yogurt, kim chi and lard from scratch. She’s kinda my hero.
Unlike the other people in this category, my friend Holly and I haven’t been acquainted for lots of years. We’ve known each other for a few, but in 2012, our casual friendship was cemented when she adopted my much-loved foster dog Minnie.
Who has blogging brought closer to you?
George Lombardi doesn’t have a dog of his own right now. But thanks to a program he kicked off, over 1,000 shelter dogs in Missouri have avoided euthanasia since 2010.
Puppies for Parole puts homeless dogs in the 24/7 care of inmate trainers, who teach the animals basic obedience and socialization to help them get adopted. The program utilizes zero tax dollars and is 100% supported by private donations.
At the bottom of this post find out how you can help!
Although not unique in design, Missouri’s program is a national leader.
“Nobody has a program as extensive as ours,” Lombardi says.
To date, 18 of the state’s 20 correctional facilities have instituted Puppies for Parole. The other two prisons are in the process of getting onboard.
The first Puppies for Parole dogs entered the Jefferson County Correctional Center in 2010. The same year, the program received the Governor’s Award for Innovation.
The program’s benefit are threefold:
- Preventing homeless dogs from being euthanized.
- Enhancing the relationship between prisons and communities.
- Providing a positive emotional outlet for offenders.
That last point was most important to Lombardi, who felt inmates “would get this unconditional love back from the dogs, who didn’t care who they were or what they did in the past,” Lombardi says. “I felt that would have a positive effect on the prison.”
Lombardi was very certain of this because about a decade ago he helped connect the group C. H. A. M. P. Assistance Dogs, Inc. (Canine Helpers Allow More Possibilities) with women Missouri inmates. The success of that program inspired him to begin Puppies for Parole.
“I was thinking about the impact that I saw that it had on the women,” he says. “So I decided to approach all of the wardens of all of the prisons.”
Even so, Lombardi’s suggestion in 2010 that prisons start bringing in shelter dogs was not a directive. “I only wanted it to happen if people wanted to do it,” he says. Fortunately, for most people, the chance to have dogs in the workplace isn’t a hard sell.
One by one, wardens around the state jumped at the opportunity.
To many, including the guard interviewed in the video below, the positive impacts of the dogs on the prison community were immediately apparent.
The effects are clear beyond the prison walls, too. Moberly Correctional Center’s local shelter partner has euthanized zero dogs for non-health-related reasons since getting involved with Puppies for Parole in 2011.
The impact of the program on individual people is profound, as well. Using positive reinforcement techniques and under the guidance of professional trainers, Missouri inmates have helped train dogs to live with families and group facilities, including centers for the mentally ill and for veterans.
“I always had it in my mind to try to help veterans,” Lombardi says. “So every single one of our veterans’ homes in Missouri has one of these dogs.”
Perhaps seeing a reflection of themselves in society’s castoff dogs, the offender handlers take great care in their responsibility. Examples abound of inmates helping difficult and disabled dogs become lovable, adoptable animals.
The story in the video below concerns Knuckles, a dog returned by other adopters three times. Thanks to Puppies for Parole he got another chance – and helped a little girl with Asperger’s syndrome open up to the world.
Upon receiving Zeus, a deaf dachshund, offenders at the South Central Correctional Facility in Licking, Missouri, turned to hearing-disabled inmates for suggestions on how to help the dog. “They told them to stomp on the ground to get the dog’s attention,” Lombardi says. “They ended up teaching Zeus nine sign language commands.”
Then, the offenders gathered money amongst themselves to help get Zeus, later renamed Sparky, placed in a Missouri school for the deaf.
Since then, several more deaf dogs have come through Puppies for Parole, including Windsor, also blind, featured in the video below.
How you can help Missouri’s Puppies for Parole
This program’s biggest need is for monetary donations. According to a limit set by the governor of Missouri, Puppies for Parole may accept up to $10,000 in private donations each year. So far, that number has never been reached.
Make an online contribution.
For those in the Jefferson City, Missouri, area, attend the barbecue dinner and benefit auction on Saturday, September 8.
Lombardi hopes one day Puppies for Parole can attain 501c3 non-profit status, which may encourage more people to give money and could even help fund at least one dedicated staff member. (Because no state money may be used for the program, any efforts put in on behalf of the program by prison staff are voluntary.)
In the meantime, Lombardi hopes people will continue supporting Puppies for Parole however they can – by donating, sharing the stories and by supporting the places the program was originally designed to help the most.
“Adopt dogs from shelters. Support your local shelter,” Lombardi says. “We’re all in this together.”
But why doesn’t Lombardi have a dog yet, you ask?
No time – overseeing 20 prisons across the state keeps him on the road too much, and his wife is equally busy.
“When we do get a dog again you can bet it will be a Puppies for Parole dog,” he says.
Dog people at heart, the Lombardis’ first pup was a dog named Tomato that he picked up on the street and who inspired her to write a children’s book.