Friday, August 17, 2012

Home again, home again

Well the dog adoption in WA went very well.  Such a long, short trip.  We drove over 1,400 miles, leaving late Wednesday, and coming home this afternoon (Friday) There and back in fifty hours. I know I joked for months about "going to prison" but when we actually got there it became very real indeed that this was a prison.  We were not permitted to actually see much of anything, and no cameras were allowed at all.

We drove up to the visitors parking lot, and were checked in, hand stamped, pockets checked and then through the metal detector.  Kinda like getting on a plane, so no big deal so far.  When all adopted persons had arrived, we were led through a door to a holding area, it had a name, but I cannot remember.  Anyway, you waited for one door to shut, then another opened.  We walked through a fenced passage way, covered in the prison wire you see on the TV, or in actual prisons, and that I think is when I really decided this if for real.  This is a prison.  We did get to see the outside of the, I think she called them single prisoner living cells.  In other words, solitary confinement.  But, moving on through the fenced passage way, we had to wait for several more doors to shut, then open and so on down the passage way to the meeting room.

Now this room didn't really feel prison like at all, so I relaxed and sat with the adoptive persons and waited for the dogs and handlers (prisoners) to come in.  I was expecting tough, ugly, mean, scary men but in came 28 clean, nice looking, mostly young men with the dogs.   My initial impression of the prisoners was wow, these guys don't look too bad.

The dogs and handlers performed a heeling drill of sorts, going in various directions all dogs heeling and well under control.  The teams then showed us how the dogs could heel, sit, down, come, and stay, all in a group, and then individually.  It was a good show.  Each dog had two handlers, a primary and secondary, and each team talked about their time with the dog, things they did together, and what individual characteristics each dog had.

So, on to the reason of our trip, Becky's dog Taz.  He is adorable.  A long haired schipperke with a tail.  He is eight months old, but was described as the biggest dog in the bunch.  After the demo, the adopters and handlers sat at a table and talked about the dog, the training and any questions were answered.  Each handler kept a daily journal of the dogs training and behaviors, and a few personal comments were recorded telling what training this dog meant to them.  Taz's handler has raised several dogs, but he said that Taz was his favorite.  I believe him.

Becky and Taz

The Freedom Tails adoption program has so many positive benefits.  I was impressed with the whole program, the amount of basic training that each dog had, and the positive impact the dog and handler teams had on each other.  Each handler described how much the program meant to them and how much the dogs meant to them.  It was evident that bonds were formed.

I have been struggling a bit with my mixed impressions of the handlers, aka prisoners.  They were all polite, nice looking, clean, and gave an overall good impression.  I really wanted to know what they did that landed them in prison. Maybe I should not know, because that would make them somehow less than the handler and trainer that I got to meet. Make them bad people.  Taz's handler has five more years.  I wanted so badly to talk to him, ask him where his family is, what did he do, how is he handling it, all that stuff that a nosy person wants to know, but I didn't.  It is probably better that I just know him as Cody, Taz's handler, and leave the rest alone.  I did find myself thinking about Cody, and the other prisoners, and after all the dogs leave, they go back to their cells, alone.  New dogs will come soon, and that gives them something positive to do, to work for, and hopefully everyone gains something.

I know I am rambling a lot, but evidently this had a big impact on me.  I am not defending the prisoners, if that is somehow how it sounded, but I was surprised that I am able to see them as men, as people, and not just as bad.  That was good for me.

Thanks for reading.  Today I am thankful and appreciative for so many, many things.


  1. What an experience, Esther! Taz looks so happy and healthy with Becky -- I think he will be very, very good for her. And he's a very lucky dog!

    Yes, visiting a prison is surreal. We've all seen it on TV, but in person is a very different matter. I am so glad that you were able to see the humanity in the men, and recognize that regardless of their past actions, they are still worthwhile people with something to offer. Visiting my brother when he was in state prison really opened my eyes.

    You must be exhausted! I had no idea the trip was that fast, I'm sure you feel like you've lived in a car for the past few days. I'm so glad you could be there for Becky -- but that's the kind of friend you are.

    Sleep well!

  2. I am so glad you shared this story; it was very interesting!

  3. What a story! Like you I'm wondering about the "more". But the dog and your friend look happy and that's what matters!

  4. Esther that is an amazing story. What a great thing for the dogs and the prisoners. You are a great friend and a dog lover! :)

  5. Hi Esther - I just saw this post through the freedom tails web site. I was there that day as well - I adopted Echo. I remember all of the trainers remarking that Taz was the "biggest" dog of the bunch!

    I was lucky enough to go back last month with a friend of mine who also adopted a dog from the program. The experience the second time around was as surreal as the first time. The two young men who had trained Echo were still there, I didn't talk to them though. I hope all is going well for Becky ann Taz.