Saturday, December 15, 2007

Prison program turns problem dogs into pets

Eileen Mitchell

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Last year, Melody was just another typical mongrel from Taiwan: sharp features, pointy ears, curly tail. A fat scar around her muzzle looked as if it had been closed with electrical tape, leading her Taiwan rescuers to believe she had been destined to be somebody's entree.

When the 35-pound mutt arrived at the Marin Humane Society, she was frightened, wary and withdrawn, refusing to leave her crate even for food. Today, Melody is thriving as the beloved pet of Dick and Sandy Drew. Their union came about thanks to Pen Pals of San Quentin, an innovative partnership between the Marin Humane Society and San Quentin State Prison.

The program, funded entirely by the humane society, shows inmate handlers how to teach basic obedience skills and make shelter dogs more adoptable. Since 2005, they have helped at least 86 dogs find homes.

The idea for Pen Pals hit Larry Carson, canine behavior evaluator at the society, after he caught an Animal Planet channel show called "Cell Dogs." The award-winning television series profiled inmates in more than 120 prisons throughout the country who care for and train shelter dogs. Immediately, he envisioned a partnership between the humane society and San Quentin prison, and pitched the idea to his colleagues.

They loved it. So the retired Marin County building contractor traveled to Carson City, Nev., to meet with the Nevada Humane Society and the warden of Nevada State Prison. Since their program, Puppies Up for Parole, was introduced three years ago, prison violence has dropped by 30 percent.

"The warden told me this is the greatest program they've ever had," Carson said. "Prisoners build fences based on ethnicity and geography, but introducing the dogs has lowered those fences and given both inmates and staff an excuse to talk to one another. Because of this animal, they're on common ground."

Using the Nevada program as a prototype, Carson approached San Quentin officials, and they were all for it. Well, most were.

"Some staff didn't think the inmates deserved dogs, plus they had security and health concerns," Carson said. "But after the program was in place and they saw the benefits, their resistance melted. Now most are in favor."

Many prisons conducting similar programs do so in the cell blocks, but this isn't feasible at San Quentin because of its age and lack of space. Instead, Pen Pals is limited to the prison firehouse. Located on the prison grounds but not within the walls, the firehouse is staffed by inmate firefighters who are low-risk, low-security prisoners convicted of nonviolent crimes. They are carefully screened for histories of violence and animal abuse, must have a record of good behavior and have enough time remaining on their sentence to complete at least one full year.

"Humane Society staff and volunteers visit every Tuesday and Thursday," Carson said. "We conduct continuous training classes, follow up on each dog's progress and help with any issues the inmates might be facing. We're in constant contact. It's a real team effort."

Each dog lives with its handler, and canine "sentences" vary from a couple of weeks to six months. Recuperating medical fosters, which constitute 60 percent of Pen Pal dogs, often stay longer because they require close care and monitoring.

About 20 percent are shy dogs that need socialization, and the remaining 20 percent are naughty adolescents in need of basic manners. Aggressive dogs are not considered for the program.

Each inmate keeps a daily log that is monitored by humane society trainers. After the dog leaves San Quentin and is adopted, the new owner gets a copy of the log so he or she knows exactly what the dog experienced during its time in prison. Inmates get a binder with a certificate of completion, photos of their dog, plus paperwork and evaluations. As soon as one dog leaves, most inmates get another one the same day, which makes it easier to say goodbye.

"They take their responsibilities very seriously," Carson said. "That's the most positive thing about the program. They don't feel like they're just wasting their time in prison. Adopters often write to the inmates, through me, saying thanks for the work they put into their new dog."

One such dog was Tigre, a hefty brindle greyhound mix who was 20 pounds overweight and in dire need of training. Carson laughs about photos of the dog on the treadmill. "He was there for a month, lost 15 pounds and returned to MHS with a spring in his step."

Shortly thereafter, retired nurse Pat Flyer adopted Tigre. "The program is terrific. They do a wonderful job," she said. "Tigre was very well trained and listens to everything I say. He's the best dog I've ever had."

The Drews, who adopted Melody, agree wholeheartedly. "They gave us her handler's daily log. He wrote about her with deep care and compassion and expressed the desire to take her back if no one adopted her," Sandy Drew said.

"We have this preconceived notion about inmates, but most of them aren't different from people you meet on the streets," Carson mused. "They just made a mistake or exercised poor judgment. Almost everybody inside is going to be outside. It's our job, through programs like this, to make them the best people possible. Animal shelters and prisons are both in the rehabilitation business: We put out good canine citizens and hopefully they put out good human ones."

Pen Pals of San Quentin
The program teaches specially selected inmates how to train and socialize dogs in preparation for adoption. To learn more about the program, go to

E-mail freelance writer Eileen Mitchell at Send your pet concern questions to with "Ask the Vet" in the guideline, and each month a guest veterinarian will address a different subject. "Ask the Vet" is for informational purposes only. Readers should not act on information seen in this column without seeking professional veterinary advice.

Dog sniffs out record offenders

A Durham Police dog has become so successful at sniffing out offenders that he is being sought after by other forces to assist their operations.

Dibley is believed to be the best performing passive drugs dog in the country, having notched up more than 120 arrests in the last 12 months.

The three-year-old golden Labrador now travels as far afield as North Wales with his handler, Pc Alison Dawson

He can detect drugs including cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, cannabis and rohypnol.

Most of Dibley's work is in pubs and clubs, but he has also visits businesses and schools.

Pat on head

Once his keen nose picks up the smallest trace of a drug on a person he sits, looks at them, and refuses to move.

Pc Dawson said: "Dibley is absolutely phenomenal.

"He is food rewarded and won't move until he gets a reward, or a pat on the head.

"I have come across lots of scanning dogs but Dibley is the best I have ever seen. He just wants to work."

She added that although his arrest total during the year is now 122, he has no plans for retirement.

"He still has a lot of working years ahead of him.

"Although he is currently in love with our cat I have got my eye on a mate for him to develop the Dibley 'strain'."

Original artile is from

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Friday, December 14, 2007

4th Annual Pool Plunge in Colorado

Here is a video from the 4th Annual Pool Plunge in Colorado.

Pretty Cool

We Have Snow

Here is a pciture of Kona, kind of just kicking it in the snow.

In case you have not heard, we got a bit of snow in the Northeast. This is Kona and Lucy's first experience with any significant amount of snow. Lucy loved it but Kona simply revelled in it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Paw Haus

I was cruising the web today and found this website, It is an online pet boutique that sells a variety of gift basket like packages.

This is really a perfect site if you have a friend that is getting a new dog and does not have the right stuff or for yourself if you want to take care of a lot of dog or puppy needs all in one swoop.

Dogs to provide therapy to soldiers in Iraq

Here is Boe, one of the therapy dogs going to Iraq.

December 13, 2007

Sgts. First Class Budge and Boe are headed to Iraq.

Budge and Boe don't have last names: They're dogs. But the pups are now officially enlisted as the Army's first therapy dogs for soldiers in combat.

The two black Labrador retrievers will be stationed with the Army's combat stress units in Tikrit and Mosul. Their role? To help soldiers deal with the stress of fighting overseas.

On Sunday, two (human) sergeants from the 85th Medical Detachment flew to Long Island to meet the two dogs at the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind in Smithtown, which trained Budge and Boe.

"Our hope is that it brings some normalcy to the soldiers," said Sgt. Mike Calaway, an occupational therapist based in Tikrit, who will handle Boe. "The human-animal bond will help relax them."

And the dogs won't just be playmates for the troops, said Sgt. Jack Greene, another occupational therapist who will take Budge back with him to Mosul.

"The major thing is, they are going to help us knock down the stigma around mental health," he said.

But before heading off to Iraq, the dogs needed to get used to sights and sounds similar to those they will encounter in Iraq.

This week, the soldiers, the dogs and foundation officials visited the shooting range at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where the dogs were exposed to the sounds of submachine guns and handguns.

The dogs went to Long Island MacArthur Airport, standing by as Suffolk County police hovered in a helicopter, the wind whipping at the dogs' fur.

And the dogs braved perhaps one of the toughest tests of all: a jaunt through Smithhaven Mall during holiday season, designed to test their reaction to the chaos of crowds.

The dogs have been in training for months, and each has learned simple tricks as well as how to respond to voice commands such as sit, stay and play.

Now Budge and Boe must bond with Calaway and Greene, their handlers until the spring, when the men are scheduled to return from Iraq.

Then, Maj. Arthur Yeager, an occupational therapist based at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, takes over. Yeager, who is to deploy to Iraq next year, said therapy dogs are used at Walter Reed to help soldiers deal with treatment and recovery. He said he expects it to work on the battlefield as well.

"This is very touchy-feely, no doubt about it, but this works," Yeager said. "I know it works. I've seen it work. These dogs are stress sponges."

Soldiers in Iraq visit the combat stress unit when they become overwhelmed with the rigors of battle or by problems their families face at home.

But not every soldier welcomes the idea of going to the unit. Some have difficulty asking for help with stress, Yeager said. That's where Budge and Boe come in.

"To have a dog come up and nudge your hand -- I have yet to see even the hardest soldier refuse that," Yeager said.

The sergeants and dogs plan to leave Long Island on Saturday for Fort Hood, Texas, where the 85th Medical Detachment is stationed. There, Budge and Boe will be examined by a veterinarian for medical issues before deploying to Iraq.

Boe and Budge also will be given the new rank of sergeant first class. No one has to salute them, though. The rank is set higher than that of their human handlers to prevent possible abuse of the dogs, because the Army looks severely at any service member who abuses a higher-up.

Mike Sergeant, chief training officer with the foundation and a Vietnam-era veteran, said the Army's program is a good step toward meeting the mental health needs of its soldiers.

"Dogs are not going to be the sole answer, but they certainly will be an icebreaker," he said.

- It looks like the troops overseas will be getting a couple of therapy dogs. Awesome.

Two Dogs Save Toddler

staffordshire bull terrier

This article originally came from,22049,22923049-5001021,00.html

TWO family dogs are being hailed as heroes after they saved a two-year-old boy from drowning in a dam in Queensland yesterday morning.

Police said the dogs, a rottweiler cross and a staffordshire bull terrier, dragged the boy from the water after he had wandered into a neighbour's dam at Mackay on the state's central coast.

The owner of the property found the boy lying on the embankment of the dam covered in mud with the two dogs by his side.

Police said there were drag marks from the water's edge to where the boy was lying and small scratches on his arms from the dog's claws.

"We are certain the dogs pulled him out of the dam," a police spokesman said.

"It is an amazing story."

The Queensland Ambulance Service said the boy had been taken to hospital and was recovering at home last night.

I am not sure if a lot of folks have seen this article. I would assume not since it was over in Australia. If you notice the dog breeds involved, a staffordshire bull terrier a dog breed we Americans often confuse for a pit bull and a rottie mix breed, another dog often targeted for breed specific legislation. It is too bad this story most likely will not get more play over here in the U.S. to possibly help with the sad reputation bully breeds have here.

dog collars, dog beds, dog toys

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dogs Eating Carrots

I like my girls Lucy and Kona to eat their veggies from time to time. Often I just put out a carrot for them to gnaw on but lately they have not been into it all that much.

Well, I proved that I was the smarter mammal today and gave them carrots covered in a cheese sauce today. Oh yeah, that worked like a charm. Actually Kona climbed up into my lap to see if she could get some more. The cheese sauce was a light one from Green Giant. I had some too, so we all got our veggies today.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Great Dane Puppy Chasing Bubbles

You know there are some days that I really cherish that I have my dogs. Come home sort of grumpy and then watch a video like this puts me in a good mood.

dog collars

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Top 20 Male Dog Names

Here is the second part of the list. It is the top 20 names for a male dog.

1. Max
2. Jake
3. Buddy
4. Bailey
5. Sam
6. Rocky
7. Buster
8. Casey
9. Cody
10. Duke
11. Charlie
12. Jack
13. Harley
14. Rusty
15. Toby
16. Murphy
17. Shelby
18. Sparky
19. Barney
20. Winston

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