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Tag: massachusetts

Inmates + dogs = a second chance times 2

A new documentary takes an inside look at the kind of “win-win-win” program I think should exist in every state, if not every prison.

“Dogs on the Inside” follows the relationships between abused stray dogs and inmates at a Massachusetts prison who are training and caring for them, getting them prepared to be put up for adoption.

dogsoninsideUnder a program called “Don’t Throw Us Away,” shelter and rescued dogs from the southeastern U.S. are sent to the North Central Correctional Institution at Gardner, where a group of inmate trainers work to regain their trust and, in the process, get some lessons in resilience and empathy.

The program benefits dogs and inmates. The third winner? Society — the one to which those inmates eventually are returning.

It’s similar to programs in other states we’ve written about before, including Philadelphia’s New Leash on Life, and, in North Carolina, a program with the same name, operated by the Forsyth County Humane Society.

insideGiven we’re a country with more two million inmates incarcerated, given six to eight million dogs and cats enter shelters each year, and given most of both spend that time unloved and idle, getting them together — given the benefits that can follow — makes good sense

Dogs on the Inside” follows the relationships between neglected and abused stray dogs and prison inmates in Gardner, Mass., as they “work together for a second chance at a better life: a forever home for the dogs and a positive life outside prison for the inmates.”

“Connected by their troubled pasts, the dogs learn to have faith in people again while the inmates are reminded of their own humanity and capacity for love and empathy,” the filmmakers say.

Directed by Brean Cunningham and Douglas Seirup, the film shows “the timeless connection between man and dog, showing the resiliency of a dogs’ trust and the generosity of the human spirit in the unlikeliest of places … In the seemingly dark recesses of a prison, a spark of light emerges that is a reminder of the wonderful and timeless connection that exists between dog and man.”

(Photos: Courtesy of “Dogs on the Inside”)

Kayla can stay, landlord must pay

The landlords of a Boston apartment building have been ordered to pay $25,000 to a tenant with HIV/AIDS for trying to force the man to get rid of his dog.

The ruling,  issued by the  Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, pertained to a mutt named Kayla, who — though not a service dog or a certified therapy dog — provided emotional support to her owner.

The complaint was brought against the owners of the Brighton Gardens building by Richard M. Blake, who was diagnosed with HIV infection more than two decades ago, according to the Boston Globe.

After his diagnosis, Blake isolated himself and rarely left the house.

“He was depressed, basically lounging around the apartment all day long, and his weight rose and blood pressure got out of control,’’ said Denise McWilliams, general counsel for the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts.

Blake’s doctor recommended a dog to help lift Blake’s mood and improve his mental and physical health.

“She’s just given me sort of a routine in my life,’’ Blake said of the boxer mix he got in 2008. “She’s given me a lot of joy. Animals just seem to make it hard for you to be in a bad mood … Ever since I have had her, the walks and the tons of exercise I do with her have helped.’’

Blake said his landlord gave him permission to get the dog, but two months later tenants were notified that a no-pet policy in their leases would be enforced.

After unsuccessful attempts to get the landlords to make an exception, Blake filed a complaint with the state commission in December, 2008.

In its ruling, the commission said that evidence “supports a finding that requiring Complainant to give up his dog would seriously jeopardize his emotional and physical well-being.’’

She wasn’t there when I stopped

We came across this sign on Highway 6 on Cape Cod — and, quirky signage being part of any good road trip blog, thought we’d pass it on.

Gulls will be gulls

Sitting on a post off the pier in Provincetown over the weekend, this gull seemed to be king of the mountain — but it didn’t last for long.

I was enjoying a cup of clam chowder — yes, another one — and Ace was laying at my feet, halfway under the bench, when I decided he was picture-worthy and took out my camera.

Sure, they are scavengers, but I like watching them — whether it be soaring regally through the sky or picking through trash like hungry hobos.

The seagulls around Provincetown have pretty good pickings, but — kind of like the humans outnumber the parking spaces — gulls far outnumber the posts in the water, which seem to be the perching spot of choice.

I’d only taken a couple of photos when a fellow gull looked down from above and, apparently either wanting the spot, or feeling he was American’s next top gull model, swooped down and bumped the first off the post.

I wasn’t going to take his picture, but then he proceeded to do something resembling a victory dance.

After I finished the chowder, and Ace cleaned the cup, gull No. 1 — apparently wanting his perch back — swooped down and knocked No. 2 off.

Then he sat there a few more minutes, looking proud as an eagle.

It wasn’t long before he went back to being a scavenger, though.

When some fishermen on a boat were cutting bait, he vacated the post for a closer look, hovering in the air and being pushed backwards by the wind.

He’d flap his wings to get closer, hover, float backwards, and flap his wings again.

Then, seeing no handouts, he went back to his post.

Seagulls kind of have it all figured out. I was forking over money at every turn in Provincetown.

Seagulls? They pay for nothing. They scavenge scraps, sleep wherever they want, squawk whenever they feel like it, and park for free. I salute them.

One last look back at Provincetown

We’re out of there, but we left with good memories, and some extra photos we never used. So here are a few more P-town dogs, and some words to live by, courtesy of Pilgrim Bark Park, where they were among several sayings engraved in stone at the entrance.  

Another place that’s hard to leave

I’m not sure if it was an overdose of dog friendliness, or the camping experience, but Provincetown wore Ace out.

After a full day of doggie activities Saturday — part of Pet Appreciation Week in the Cape Cod community — we returned to our campsite and turned in early, as in 8 p.m.

Ace, though he was spooked by everything — a car door closing, headlights casting shadows on the tent walls — eventually fell asleep, at least I think he did, because I conked right out and slept through the night.

We were up bright an early Sunday, and the first thing we did, after coffee, of course, was head down to town, score a parking space and hit one of the town beaches — all of which permit dogs and, from 6 to 9 a.m., allow them to be off leash.

Ace sniffed around for a while, then broke into full frolic mode, kicking up sand as he ran in circles, stopping every now and then to crouch into a play stance and bite into the sand. He tested the water briefly, then decided running around in the sand was more fun — especially if I was chasing him.

We play this little game — perhaps it horrifies onlookers — where I double up the leash, making sure the clip part is in my hand, and act like I’m going to give him a whipping. I even say “You’re gonna get a whippin’  … You better watch out … ” When I do that he runs toward me, veering to the side at the last possible moment and I gently swat his hiney with the leash when he goes by. Then he circles and comes back again.

After an hour of that, we got some water and walked into town, stopping at the Governor Bradford, which, like most restaurants with patios in Provincetown — proclaimed America’s dog friendliest city by Dog Fancy magazine –  allows dogs.

Breakfast finished, we headed to the pier, where Ace seemed most fascinated with the old working fishing boats — to the extent that there were one or two he wanted to hop aboard. He was intrigued, too, by the plastic lobsters on the bench/display above. It will be interesting, once we hit Maine, to see how he reacts to a real one.

He did get to sniff a starfish that a charter boat employee was showing some children, and fortunately didn’t gobble it up.

With a dog parade scheduled to take place at 2, sponsored by the Carrie A. Seamen Animal Shelter, we had an hour to kill. Ace was dragging a bit. Possibly I was too. So we walked back to the car. I opened the tailgate and Ace jumped right in and settled down. I joined him, sitting at the end of the tailgate. He shifted around so he could lay his head on my leg and, within seconds, was sleeping. The parking space was $2.50 an hour — so it was a pricey nap — but too nice a moment to interrupt. I think I fell asleep, too.

We awoke in plenty of time to get a good seat for the parade, which only lasted a couple of minutes, but we sat there for another hour with people coming up to meet Ace, compliment him on his handsomeness, and ask what kind of dog he was.

While that happens everywhere, Provincetown really does seem a place where dogs are appreciated more than most — and not just during Pet Appreciation Week.

Worn out by running on the beach and being sociable, we went back to the campsite for what would turn out to be a soggy night.

Mainly to get out of the rain, we jumped into the car about 6 a.m. Monday morning. I stopped for coffee and we drove out to Race Point — part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, 40 miles of pristine shoreline, marshes, dunes, cranberry bogs and ponds.

“A man may stand there and put all America behind him,” Henry David Thoreau once said of the spot we stood in. The rain turned to a gentle, but just as soaking, mist, and Ace went into frolic mode again. I wasn’t in the mood for the whipping game, though. Instead, I stared out into the water, only to see something staring back.

To me, that sealed the deal: I love this place.

Ace’s coat was drenched, and so was my sweatshirt. There was a soggy tent to drain, pack up and hoist atop my car — and I was already cold and tired to the bone. The skies showed no hint of any sunshine ahead. Nevertheless, it was time to get rolling — for while when I looked at the ocean the whole country may have been at my back, when I turned around the other way, the whole country was ahead.

Dockside Encounter

Name: Finley

Breed: Landseer Newfoundland

Age: 19 months

Encountered: Along the pier in Provincetown, Mass.

Backstory: We ran into Finley (and a couple of hundred other dogs) during our weekend in Provincetown. He was lounging on the pier, sitting with his owner next to one of many artist kiosk’s that, along with whale watching charters, line the dock. Finley’s owner says, like most Newfoundlands, Finley loves the water — whether he’s playing in the surf, swimming or on a boat. Finley — lucky dog — lives in Provincetown year-round.

(To see all of our Roadside Encounters, visit “Travels with Ace.”)

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