Way back when my little Wayward Dogs project began, I started this blog to chronicle the lost, stray and abandoned canines I encountered.
I’m quite happy to report that for a second year in a row, those experiences did not occur frequently enough to warrant daily posts. In fact, I hardly ran into any wayward dogs on the streets in the year 2012!
That, of course, meant I had to fill in the days with posts about other things, including other people’s awesome dog projects, including:
- Missouri’s Puppies for Parole program
- How Rose Brooks Center helps battered women, children and their pets
- How Conservation Canines are helping to save the whales (my other favorite animal)
- The Yellow Dog Project
Then, there was the KC Pittie Pack…
Emily from Our Waldo Bungie and I came together in 2012 to create a co-project of our own.
We founded KC Pittie Pack & Friends, a walking group designed to help people socialize their pets in a structured environment. In its first year, KC Pittie Pack:
- Gained almost 100 members through our Meetup group
- Held 27 Meetups around Kansas City
- Was recognized by local newspaper The Pitch as Kansas City’s “Best Way to Tame Your Wild-ass Dog”
- Brought out a whole bunch of bully breed dogs for National Pit Bull Awareness Day
- Outfitted our supporters in awesome hoodies and T-shirts
In 2012, I also used this blog as a platform to generate support for local animal welfare organizations.
My awesome blog readers helped me:
- Run my first 5K and raise $250 for Wayside Waifs
- Raise over $300 through a raffle and shopping event benefiting Midwest Adopt-a-Bull
And the year was not totally devoid of “wayward dogs.”
Of the handful of lost dogs I encountered, the three I was able to assist appeared when I was en route to work:
- Malakai – A gorgeous and sweet husky dog who was stopping traffic on a very busy Kansas City street.
- Tara – I knew my neighbor’s elderbull was never supposed to run around the ‘hood by herself.
- Cotton – A hunting dog I totally failed to blog about. Rather than taking him with me, I turned back toward home. Cotton’s ID tag had a phone number, so I left a message on his owner’s voicemail that his dog was safe and how to reach me. Then, I went on to work. Within 20 minutes, Cotton’s uber-relieved-sounding dad called him, so I told him where to go pick up his pup.
The fact that very few stray doggies followed me home in 2012 was actually a really good thing, considering at the beginning of the year we still had two formerly wayward dogs under our roof – Minnie and Charlie Machete – in addition to our two forever dogs.
No kidding – four was too much for our little house and the humans inside it.
Fortunately, by May, both fosters were adopted. But the reprieve did not last long.
Less than a year after he originally arrived in our lives, Charlie Machete came back – by way of a shelter in Omaha.
We still don’t know exactly why he ended up behind bars, but we are grateful Charlie Machete’s adopters never changed the contact information on his microchip. Because they didn’t, the shelter called me, and Zach was able to make the three-hour drive to bail out our big black foster dog, who was otherwise on the list to be euthanized.
Although I haven’t proven to be a very successful dog foster mom, I’m proud to say that, through networking, I was able to help some other dogs find forever homes in 2012.
Sometimes I feel funny about the fact that I am the girl who almost daily posts sad pictures of dogs desperate to be adopted. I know this habit annoys some of my friends, but I keep doing it for a good reason: Sometimes the sharing pays off.
Because I helped my friend and fellow Kansas City pet advocate Nicole get the word out, these two dogs landed in forever homes in 2012:
- Mia, a beagle/husky mix was adopted by my coworker
- A black lab puppy was taken into a foster home that adopted him
My constant fretting about wayward dogs also seems to have had an effect on Zach’s and my mothers.
In 2012, both of them made successful efforts to apprehend and return home lost dogs in their own neighborhoods.
I have also noticed that generally in life I am becoming the person others turn to when they have questions about dogs. That sure feels good, and I always try to help if I can.
Here’s hoping for more successful efforts on behalf of dogs in 2013!
What was your biggest accomplishment for dogs last year?
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.