Notes from the Inmate Handlers and Their Dogs
By Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW) Inmate Dog Handler
I didn’t expect to be so excited about a young puppy who I had not met yet, and a date that now marks an anniversary I’ll never forget. But as that date approached and news of a litter of pups arrived, I could barely contain my enthusiasm.
On the afternoon of Nov. 4, 2010, a group of Pawsabilities members (staff and inmates) waited near the ORW Entrance Building as Circle Tail dogs and pups were brought in. One of my roommates accepted Demby, the litter’s mother. Another of my roommates carried a bin with 3 pups of Demby’s litter. I picked up a bin with the other 3 pups of that litter. It was so heavy that I asked an attending trainer to carry one of the pups from my bin.
As we walked back to our living area, she offered to carry the bin (with 2 pups) and I ended up carrying the one pup. This was him…the special pup that I logged in as my 100th dog fostered for Circle Tail since May 2006! My heart did a funny flip- flop as it melted for this amazing little guy. He looked directly into my eyes, licked the tip of my nose, and wagged his tail, and I was “his” through and through.
At the meeting in our Rec Room, Ms. Staley provided a list of names with the theme of New Age Artists. I chose “Kern” from the list and gave him a green ribbon to identify him from the other 5 black puppies, each having their own ribbon color as well. Now 2 weeks later, at 6 ½ weeks old, fully weaned and beginning to be house trained, Kern is the biggest of the litter and a bounding 10 pounder at that.
In a few days, he will be given a puppy aptitude test to see if he has potential for service dog training. In a few weeks, Kern (aka, Mr. 100) will return to Circle Tail for neutering and possible adoption. Until then, I shall enjoy his puppyhood antics that make me laugh, and begin to teach him how to focus and learn the foundation of his basic training towards obedience. This is a time of “firsts”: first walk on a leash, first solo exploration without his pack of litter mates, first interactions with auntie and uncle dogs, etc.
As I look back over all the dogs and pups I’ve helped raise and train these past 4 ½ years, I’m amazed at how quickly the time has passed, how very much I’ve learned (about dogs, dog training, and myself), and how full each day has been. Kern makes me proud to be a part of Circle Tail’s efforts to save and place unwanted litters, and thankful that ORW has the Pawsabilities program which allows me to offer unconditional love to these litters, and specialize as a “Puppy Nanny”!
A Better Way For A Better Day
As I relax on my bed
Thoughts of my dog stir through my head.
Peacefully he lays calmly on the floor
His trouble free mind I enviously adore.
Watching and studying his tranquil way
His thoughts linger no further than the day.
His mindful worries never last
He makes them yesterday's forgotten past.
Living only in the moment at hand
A fearless future lays at his command.
Living life like there is no tomorrow
He gives his all - no regret, no sorrow.
He knows when he delivers his best
The wage paid is a good night rest.
Though he lays there like a bump on a log
Much can be learned from my meek ole dog.
Studying my dog's ways
Inspired knowledge improves my days.
I have heard the wise saying, "Just for Today!"
It was my dog who showed me the way.
– The Humble Trainer
(Inspired by Syne, my Golden Retriever in training)
My name is Victor. I was sent to prison in 1999 for two charges of felonious assault where my victim was beaten severely. I was a very violent person and in prison I became involved in a white supremacy group and was very active. I got a lot of those types of tattoos covering my body in prison and I was mad at the world. I began serving time at the age of 14 in the department of youth services. I always liked dogs and would bring strays home as a kid. I saw the dogs in the prison that Circle Tail brought in and wanted to be a part of the program, but because of my background and the group I was associated with I was turned down several times by the prison. One night rolling the dice in my cell with God (I wasn’t a Christian then) I said “get me in the program and I’ll back out of the gang”. The very next day the prison coordinator called me in his office and said “you’re in, you’re getting a dog, but mess up and you’re headed to the hole”. I was very excited, and then I thought about what I said in my cell the night before. I received my dog and new cell and cell block location and got settled in. Later that evening on the yard I talked to the guys and told them I was done. They wanted to stop me and couldn’t believe what they were hearing, but I meant what I said. Ms. Staley from Circle Tail would come in and teach us how to train our dogs and gave us training manuals I have to this day. I read everything I could get my hands on about training dogs and began to build a bond with my dog. I was green but I slowly learned how to train my dog and I would take him on the yard and show off what he could do. I watched a lot of hardened cons doing time for murder, robbery, etc. come out of their shells when the dogs were around. I watched them love on the dogs when they were cold as steel like I was and they would be on the yard waiting for us to bring our dogs out. I also noticed the fights were down when the dogs were around. My best memory was when Circle Tail brought me a pregnant dog name Lena that I agreed to take and care for. Lena had 12 pups in my cell. It was the first time pups were born in that prison! It was a hot summer in that cell and I missed chow a lot but I wouldn’t change the experience for anything! Circle Tail helped change my life and I haven’t been back to prison. I went from a violent man who could hurt you at a drop of a dime to a man who is now a Christian. My days are not all good but I deal with them with what I learned from the dogs. God put it in my heart to start Dogs Training Young Men Program where I pair up troubled youth with rescue dogs and teach the youth how to train them and I do this free of charge. We plan to take them on field trips at various pet functions and give them a chance to demo their dogs and show off! They will also go on learning trips. I believe every kid matters no matter their background and I believe the dogs will take the drugs and guns out of their hands and change their life like they did mine. None of this would be possible if Circle Tail didn’t take chances with guys like me. I am a Professional Obedience Trainer, certified canine trainer, 4000 hours apprenticed animal behavior therapist and former American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen test evaluator. I plan after working with the youth this summer to go back and get my master trainer certification. Please support programs like Circle Tail because each time Ms. Staley goes into the prison she’s saving two lives.
Victor E. Addis, Jr.