*names of inmate handlers have been changed on this piece for privateness causes
It’s rare to see a program that has such a huge impact on each people and canine as Pixie’s Pen Pals.
This system, managed by FETCH A Remedy in Richmond, Va, transforms canine who might not have a chance at adoption with training from inmates in Virginia correctional amenities. It’s a win-win for both man and his greatest good friend: the inmates achieve invaluable life and career expertise as they train their canine the talents to thrive with a brand new household.
“This is a program where society, the inmate and the pet all win,” stated Jim Lansing of Sammy Snacks/ Ancestry, which built a partnership with Pixie’s Pen Pals to donate high-quality food to the canine in the program. “There are not many opportunities where your contribution has so much impact. The dogs come from area shelters, and this is their last opportunity.”
How It Works
The canine often begin with behavioral issues, which make them less fascinating for adopters. After being educated, each canine knows primary obedience, will settle for handling and grooming, is crate educated, and has turn out to be accident-free (no less than inside the correctional middle surroundings.)
Inmates from the consideration wing of the correctional amenities are hired for paid handler positions. Professional trainers oversee the inmates and assist them work with the canine, who get a number of one-on-one consideration.
“The dogs live in the inmates’ rooms, so they are in almost constant contact with the dogs,” stated Sarah Hornberger, the coordinator for Pixie’s Pen Pals. “Ultimately, you put the dog before yourself and you understand that everyone contributes to a successful dog, who will go on to be a great companion for her new family.”
She stated about 30 inmate handlers practice about 90 canine annually. Each dog will get a 2-person workforce of handlers.
“You learn to adjust your life to another person and a dog to form a unit or team,” stated Shelley, a handler from Fluvanna Correctional Middle for Ladies, one among four correctional centers collaborating in this system: Buckingham Correctional Middle, Goochland Correctional Middle for Ladies and Lunenberg Correctional Middle.
The canine come from Richmond Animal Control and Southside SCPA shelters. Pen Pals helps decrease the speed of euthanasia at the shelters, actually giving troubled canine a second probability at life.
A Second Probability for Dogs
“You see a dog that would have never ‘made it’ in the real world transformed into decent dogs with nice skills and manners under their belt,” stated Lilly, another inmate handler. “This gives them a better chance at getting adopted.”
The transformations the canine make are unimaginable.
“We see a scared or abused dog turn into a very friendly, confident dog— well-mannered, ready to face the wold. And they don’t even look back… sometimes,” stated Jess, also an inmate handler.
Once the canine are educated, Pen Pals also works very rigorously to put every pooch in a fitting residence.
“We read each adoption application thoroughly, because we want to find the dog and the adopter the perfect match,” stated Sarah. She additionally continues to help canine transition from jail life to house life.
One adopter, Beth, stated the adoption course of is private and tailor-made to ensure the canine discover the absolute best houses.
“The FETCH a Cure employees, particularly Sarah, spent hours on the phone and email helping me search for the right fit,” she stated.
She was fond of her first adoptee, but unfortunately her cat didn’t feel the same. Sarah continued to work with Beth to discover a higher match. Because the inmates are capable of present such detailed information about every canine in the program, it solely took another suggestion. The second pairing was, as Beth stated “perfect.”
“It was pretty much love at first sight,” she unhappy. “She has found a forever home with people who love her, and she certainly gives just as much love in return.”
Along with matching canine with their superb adopters, Sarah also fosters pets in the program.
“For me, the most important interaction I have had with one of our Pen Pals dogs is when I fostered Copper, who was returned to the program after living with a family for a year,” she stated. “He was alleged to have behavior issues, which we have not seen in any situation so far. In fact, he was a model citizen in my house, and the first dog I have truly forged a bond with while working for FETCH A Cure.”
She stated it was exhausting to resist the urge to undertake him herself. However Copper is up for adoption, and she or he hopes her intimate information of him will assist him discover his good eternally house, too.
“Copper really just needs a second chance and a clean slate,” she stated, tearing up. “And that’s what this program is really about, for the dogs and the handlers.”
Expertise & Success for Inmates
“I feel like it’s a big accomplishment to be able to save and give a rescue dog a second chance in life,” Jess stated.
The sense of accomplishment and giving again to the group isn’t all of the handlers get out of this system. The dynamic process of supporting the canine is filled with challenges, and possibilities to study.
Tonya, another inmate handler, stated they study quite a bit in the say-to-day “by working to solve problems, working as a team, and learning to deal with various issues.” Every handler faces unique conditions with their canine, and with their companions.
“We are held accountable for caring for these animals while they are here,” Lilly stated. “But we also have to deal with a lot of people, so we also sharpen our social skills.”
Those social expertise are key to the success of this system, and the canine themselves.
“I feel like the handlers have really become diplomatic— you have a dog that is ‘yours,’ but your fellow handlers can offer invaluable advice,” Sarah stated. “You learn to communicate without stepping on any toes, and you also learn to listen.”
Virginia Broitman Dare, one of the trainers who oversees the inmates, stated a variety of the talents are common, so the inmates can apply them to whatever they do.
“Some of my handlers at Fluvanna have switched jobs within the prison, going on to teach other inmates in various capacities,” Virginia stated. “Two ladies in particular have told me they utilize a lot of the things they learned in the dog program, like how to break down skills into achievable steps, how to use positive reinforcement effectively with their human students, being more observant about body language, understanding that a confused student means the teacher has to rethink their teaching plan and adjust accordingly, etc.”
The professionalism the inmates develop is instantly apparent, Sarah stated.
“When I went for my first visit to Fluvanna Correctional Center, I was very impressed with how well the handlers communicate with the trainer and each other, their attention to detail and their comprehensive knowledge of training,” Sarah stated.
She stated the handlers are dedicated to learning more, requesting training books and all the time making an attempt to further their information.
Inmates have even developed their very own coaching materials for brand spanking new handlers, demonstrating the talents they’ve discovered for the subsequent handlers in the program.
The training guide, “Dogs Doing Time (and the People They Have to Deal With),” outlines things like conflict decision, reacting to dog behaviors, and saying goodbye to the canine (“It’s okay to cry,” it encourages.)
The e-book even consists of funny examples: the dachshund who didn’t appear so taken with her handler’s pillow… until she was left alone to tear it to shreds. The inattentive handler who obtained peed on by her anxious retriever. The energetic pup who broke his leg, however overcame his damage with a a lot of particular TLC, ultimately being adopted by a loving family (with a reasonably woman dog subsequent door!)
There’s lots to absorb. Tonya talked about that while some individuals turn out to be really dedicated, not everyone seems to be reduce out for the demands of the job. However most of the handlers who do thrive in this system proceed to put their expertise to use as soon as they depart the correctional centers.
A number of former inmates in the program have gone on to work or volunteer with canine in some capacity, and a couple of have even turn out to be full-time trainers themselves.
And in accordance with Sarah, a lot of the canine who depart Pen Pals go to their endlessly houses.
“The dogs have a low return rate not only because they are so well trained, but also because their owners are also well informed by the inmate handlers,” Sarah stated. “Our dogs are top notch. We have many repeat adopters and many adopters who tell their friends about our dogs because they are so happy with their own.”
The inmates also wish to have updates from the pets which have touched their lives.
“We had a sweet puppy named Casper, and he was all legs, sweet as can be,” Jess remembered fondly. “He was adopted by a sweet family with twin boys. They sent an update a year later, and Casper looked all filled in and grown.”
Jess stated it was a really fulfilling expertise.
“He looked so happy, and that’s what makes me happy.”
How You Can Assist
The partnership with Sammy Snacks/Ancestry helps the canine keep an entire, natural and nutritious diet, so the employees, trainers and handlers can concentrate on their training, without having to worry about their vitamin.
“Having had worked with many rescue pets without access to such high quality food, I can say that having Sammy Snacks as a partner has really helped reduce the number of vet visits we would likely have due to gastritis or food allergies!” Sarah stated.
Sammy Snacks even offers grain-free foods for canine with dietary restrictions, and in addition provides every household adopting a canine from Pen Pals their first bag of meals.
“As any veterinarian could tell you, is very important to any dog’s transition to have consistent food or a legitimate transition,” Sarah stated. “I think Sammy Snacks has also helped us cut back on any follow-up calls for pets with upset stomachs!”
You’ll be able to donate sufficient Ancestry to feed a Pen Pals canine for 45 days or extra. Simply buy a 30-pound donation bag for lower than half of the regular worth, only $25, and we’ll add it to our regular donations.