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Tag: prisoners

Help wanted: Prison needs dog groomer

The Decatur Correctional Center in Illinois is looking for a dog groomer, willing to work behind bars.

The center runs a dog-grooming training program, and Kim Schwalbach, the woman who has led it since 2002 is stepping down, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The program is known as CLIP, which stands for Correctional Ladies Improving Pets.

Thirty-six year-old Katrina Williamson went through the program and says it changed her life. She landed a job grooming dogs right out of prison. Prison official Mike Dooley says few of the women who have worked with Schwalbach have returned to prison.

His dog Tuesday helps war vet stay on course

How a golden retriever named Tuesday is helping an Iraq war veteran with severe post-traumatic stress was the subject of an excellent story in yesterday’s The Wall Street Journal.

Trained to help Luis Carlos Montalvan with his unseen injuries, Tuesday is a psychiatric-service dog — or, as the article referred to it, a “Seeing Eye dog for the mind.”

Tuesday, who is with Montalvan around the clock, has been taught to recognize changes in his breathing, perspiration or scent that can indicate an imminent panic attack.

Montalvan, a retired Army captain who received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered during an ambush in Iraq, is one of the estimated 300,000 veterans who will ultimately develop PTSD — few of whom will be able to get access to dogs like Tuesday.

“We’re just scratching the surface,” said Gloria Gilbert Stoga, president of Puppies Behind Bars Inc., a New York-based nonprofit that uses prisoners to train animals. Tuesday is one of 11 psychiatric-service dogs it has placed. It hopes to provide 14 more this year.

Tuesday was eight weeks old when he and five siblings were turned over to Puppies Behind Bars. He was sent to New York’s Fishkill Correctional Facility. The pup shared a cell with John Pucci, a convicted killer who was given responsibility for molding Tuesday into a service dog.

Pucci taught Tuesday to respond to 82 commands geared mainly toward helping the physically disabled — turning on lights with his nose, retrieving food from shelves, helping load washing machines. In doing so he won a bet with fellow inmates, who didn’t think Tuesday could be trained. “I got released before I could collect the cigarettes,” said Pucci, 64 years old, who served 29 years.

After that,Tuesday received additional training, based on Montalvan’s needs — such as reminding him to take his pills, and serving as a buffer when Montalvan gets stressed out by large crowds.

Montalvan walks with a cane as a result of his physical injuries, but he says his biggest problems are emotional. “Sometimes my mind goes jumbled,” he said. “Everything just gets kind of cloudy.”

Tuesday also accompanies Montalvan to to Columbia University, where he’s studying journalism and communication.

“Tuesday is just extraordinarily empathetic,” said Montalvan, 36. “In bad moments, he’ll lay his head on my leg, and it’ll be like he’s saying, ‘You’re OK. You’re not alone.’”

There’s no escaping the Dirty Two Dozen

Nobody has busted out of the Idaho Correctional Center in more than 20 years, and prison officials say the credit goes to the Dirty Two Dozen — a team of snarling guard dogs that patrol the perimeter.

Their names sound friendly enough –  Cookie, Bongo and Chi Chi among them — but the dogs, they say, are a mean lot, former death row inmates deemed too dangerous to be pets. Most would have been euthanized at the local pound if not for the prison duty that served as their reprieve.

The program began in 1986, when 24 dogs — German shepherds, Rottweilers and Belgian malinois, boxers and pit bulls — were placed in the space between the inner and outer chain-link fences that surround the prison.

The canines require no salary, don’t join unions and are more reliable during power outages than electrical security systems. They also seem to have a powerful deterrent effect.

“We’re basically giving them a second chance at a good, healthy life,” Corrections Officer Michael Amos, who heads the sentry dog program, told the Associated Press. ”Those same instincts that make them a bad pet make them good sentries.”

“The average offender has no problem engaging in a fight with a correctional officer — they’re used to fighting with humans. But they don’t want to mess with a 100-pound rottweiler who has an attitude and who wants to bite the snot out of them for climbing that fence,” said James Closson, a dog trainer in Boise. He arranged the donation of some overaggressive dogs to the prison when the sentry program was new.

Over the years, the dogs have bitten handlers, badly mauling a staff member who in the late 1990s entered the kennel without first making sure all the animals were caged. But no inmates locked up at the prison have been bitten, authorities said.

Interestingly, the prison also has a program in which inmates train and care for shelter dogs, designed to give the dogs a better chance of getting adopted. But those dogs, though they may have behavioral issues, aren’t as hard core as those that guard the fence.

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