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Tag: training

For retired racing greyhounds prison can be the path to adoption

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Prisons and greyhound tracks are, in many ways, pretty similar beasts and, whether you’re a person or a dog, you don’t want to spend too much time in the belly of either.

Both can be cold and institutional. Both require spending a lot of time caged. In one, you are encouraged to run; in the other, that’s not advisable. Whether you’re a greyhound living at a track or a human serving a prison sentence, your liberties are taken away, you do what you are told to do, and day to day life can be bleak.

Going from living at a greyhound track to living in a prison may not seem a step in the right direction, but for hundreds of greyhounds it has been.

For retired racing dogs, prisons are increasingly coming to symbolize, of all things, freedom.

Thanks to groups like Prison Greyhounds, featured in an article in this week’s Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel, racing dogs deemed to have lost their edge on the track, are learning the manners and behaviors they need to be successfully adopted.

prisongreyhoundsHeadquartered in Indianapolis, Prison Greyhounds is an all-volunteer organization that accepts dogs retired from Daytona Beach Racing and Card Club and places them with specially selected inmates at the Putnamville Correctional Facility in Greencastle, Indiana.

The dogs spend two months being trained and sleep in crates next to their assigned inmate’s bunk.

As with other prison programs that work with shelter dogs, the greyhound program — one of a handful across the country — provides benefits to the prisoners, and the prisons, as well.

The inmate handlers, who have been coached on dog training, gain job skills. And the presence of the dogs provides a calming effect on the entire prison population.

A team of two inmate-handlers is assigned to each dog. Prison Greyhounds covers the costs of veterinary care, bedding, leashes and other supplies.

Once the dogs graduate they’re ready for adoption, for a fee of $275.

(Photos from PrisonGreyhounds.org)

Police officer shoots two dogs in family’s back yard, one of whom was wagging its tail

Minneapolis police say they are helping a local family with their veterinary bills and will institute a mandatory training program after an officer shot two dogs Saturday in the family’s fenced back yard Saturday.

“This was an outcome that no one wanted,” Police Chief Janee Harteau said. “I’ve asked for an Internal Affairs use of force review. We are reaching out to the family to help them with the veterinary care bills to ensure that both dogs are adequately taken care of.

“To help us prevent similar outcomes in the future,” she added, “we will be implementing updated mandatory training specifically for officers identifying effective tools and tactical strategies with police and dog encounters.”

One of the dogs, Rocko, was shot multiple times and is doing OK after surgery. The other, Ciroc, was shot in the face and has a fractured jaw.

The owner of the two pit bulls, Jennifer LeMay, called the officer “trigger happy,” and said the dogs were not attacking. One was even wagging its tail.

“My dog had stopped. My dog wasn’t even facing him to charge him or be in an aggressive manner to him. You still shot him,” she wrote in a Facebook post that included footage from the surveillance camera.

The officer was responding to a residential burglary alarm, and did not know it had been set off accidentally by the homeowner’s daughter when she returned home, KARE11 reported.

Police say they will review the surveillance video as well as that recorded by the officer’s body cam.

Chief Harteau described the video as “difficult to watch.”

The dog can be seen approaching the officer, but not in a manner that clearly appeared to be “charging,” as the officer described in a police report.

LeMay has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help with the dogs’ medical bills. Its $15,000 goal was quickly reached. As of 3 p.m. Monday people had contributed more than $20,000.

When you’re feeling way older than your dog

I’m still a few days away from reclaiming my dog Jinjja, being cared for by a friend while I recover from some recent surgery, but I did stop by to take him for a test walk last week.

(That’s not us in the video above. I’m not quite that slow and bent over, and Jinjja’s not quite as willing as that dachshund to move along at a snail’s pace.

The test walk convinced me I needed a few more days — given Jinjja tugs a bit on the leash — before getting back to the two walks a day routine.

Then I came across the video above, which made me think if that old guy can still walk his dog, a little wrenching of my guts shouldn’t be holding me back. I’m not sure which impressed me more — the old man’s perseverance or the dog’s patience.

Still, given Jinjja’s hosts are so gracious and he seems to be having such a good time there — enjoying a large, escape-proof yard, the companionship of two other dogs and attention from three times as many humans — I decided to stretch his visit out to a few more days and pick him up after the holidays.

Yes, dogs help keep us young, but sometimes they can remind us how old we’re getting, or feeling — especially when a walk is the last thing you feel like doing and your dog is insisting on it. The video also got me thinking about dogs and older people, and how a good match is pretty vital to their successful coexistence.

jin2When I adopted Jinjja six months ago, after he was freed from a South Korean farm where he was being raised to become meat, I was in decent health and thought I had enough energy to handle whatever challenges he might pose.

His three escapes and the subsequent recovery efforts — one on the eve of my surgery — made me question that … and more.

Should I, at almost 64, have chosen a smaller, lazier, older dog to adopt — one content to do little more than lay around the house, one for whom my tiny courtyard would be ample space?

In retrospect, yes. But I didn’t know at the time that I was going to have to deal with a kidney cancer scare and a surgery that takes six weeks to recover from.

I’m far from alone in having this kind of issue. Even though dogs age much more quickly than we do, it’s not uncommon for older folks to find the dog they’ve been caring for has become more than they can handle, or for them to adopt one who might not be a perfect fit for their circumstances.

I’m a firm believer that a dog can bring joy, meaning, comfort, companionship and numerous health benefits to the life of an older person — and that ideally every older person who wants one should have one.

But, as with any adoption, considerations of one’s circumstances, and the possibility of unforeseen new ones, need to be kept in mind.

You can find a pretty good summary of all the pros and cons when it comes to pets and seniors in this guide put together by the National Council on Aging Care.

It was a dog who led me to the home I bought a year ago — a different dog (Ace) who died before I moved. He needed a home without steps. He was not a leash-tugger, or even a leash-requirer, and he was content to always be at my side.

The condo seemed a perfect old man/old dog house. It didn’t have anything that could rightly be called a yard, but it had no steps (which I’ll admit appealed to me as well) and it had a small fenced courtyard.

Ace — while he was an extra large dog — never seemed too thrilled with yards, anyway. He would rather go on walks and meet people, or lay on the porch and wait for people to come meet him, or simply station himself at some other observation point:

At dog parks, Ace, a highly social animal, would generally remain where the people were, rather than romp around the acreage.

Jinjja is a different story — and one that’s still evolving. He’s still working on his socialization skills, and more. We attended our first obedience class, where he showed great promise, but attending those classes was cut short by my illness.

Jinjja is still easily frightened, and wary of the male of the human species. He was at my friend’s house for a month before he let her husband pet him.

Their place was an ideal spot for him. He can just go out the back door and have an entire yard to romp in. There’s no need for leashed walks, and thereby fewer opportunities for him to take off — and when he does that, getting him back is no easy task.

DSC05631I’ve concluded that’s a result of both nature and nurture — though the environment he came from could hardly be called nurturing.

It is fairly characteristic of his breed (Jindo) to wander. And contact with humans was best avoided at the dog farm in South Korea where — though he might have been someone’s pet at some point — he was mostly raised.

So for this particular old person (for whom moving into a house with a large escape proof fenced yard is out of the question), it’s a matter of more training, more trust-building, more work, more walks, more trips to the dog park, and more of the kind of perseverance that old man in the video reflects.

And all that will resume by this weekend.

Why? Because of all the rewards we’ve only briefly touched on in this article. You — whether you are young, or old, or in between — already know what they are. I’ve been reminded of them when Jinjja, who once kept his distance from me, joyfully greets me during my visits to his temporary home.

We’ve got more bonding to do, more tricks to learn, more walks to take. He’ll have to slow down a bit. I’ll have to stay upright and pick up the pace. But, as a team, I’m pretty sure we can do it.

(Click on this link for more stories about Jinjja)

A gathering of second chancers

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Five years ago, Danny Rawley was an inmate in a North Carolina prison.

One year ago, my dog Jinjja was one of more than 100 dogs waiting to be slaughtered for their meat at a dog farm in South Korea.

Four weeks ago, I was on an operating table, having what doctors suspected was a cancerous kidney removed.

Recently, we all came together, proving not only that it’s a small world, but one that — thank goodness — often gives us second chances. And sometimes third, fourth and fifth ones as well.

Some backing up is in order.

jindolI adopted Jinjja last November from the Watauga Humane Society, which was hosting four dogs that were among a much larger group rescued from a dog farm in South Korea and brought to the United States for adoption.

He was fearful. He was skittish. He didn’t seem to much like men. But in the months that followed he made slow but steady progress, in everything except for his fear of meeting new human males and his tendency to run away if he experienced a small taste of freedom.

We made it to our first obedience class (and he did great) before I got ill, and, in a matter of weeks, found myself scheduled to have one of my kidneys removed.

Given the outlook beyond the surgery was uncertain, given the operation comes with a six-week no-heavy-lifting recovery period, given Jinjja’s tendencies to sometimes tug pretty hard on the leash, to be be slow to warm up to new people, and the escape risks he posed, I was hesitant to ask a friend to care for him.

I was contemplating surrendering him back to the Watauga Humane Society when a friend at the Forsyth Humane Society offered to take him into her own home. Darla Kirkeeng, the society’s director of development, volunteered to keep him as long as necessary — even after I warned her of his eccentricities and that he’d likely be slow to warm up to her husband.

But that’s where he has been since shortly before my surgery, living happily with Darla and her daughter, tolerating Darla’s husband, and joining her pack of two other rescued dogs, Luigi and Olivia.

DSC06532As if that act wasn’t gracious enough, Darla threw in a bonus, and arranged for Danny Rawley, a dog trainer, to drop by for a few sessions with Jinjja.

That’s where I met him recently when I dropped by Darla’s for my first visit with Jinjja since my surgery.

Despite my fears that being apart would harm the bond we’d developed, Jinjja remembered me and didn’t hesitate to approach and allow me to pet him and show him affection — something he doesn’t generally permit males to do.

Danny admitted Jinjja was skittish around him, too, and snarled and snapped at him during the first session.

Once leashed though, Jinjja paid attention to instructions and, as Danny demonstrated, made some great progress.

Danny also gave me some advice on working on recall — something Jinjja, if he accidentally gets unleashed outside, doesn’t begin to understand. The smallest taste of freedom, and he’s off and running, and gets into a mode where he will allow no one to approach.

My guess is that’s partly a trait of his breed (Jindo), a once wild breed that populated an island of the same name off the coast of Korea. Partly too it’s a result of the dog farm environment, where dogs live crated or chained, and anyone putting their hands on you was likely a sign that it was your turn to be slaughtered or taken to market.

Likely, it is something he will never fully overcome. Freedom, and the desire for it, are powerful forces, especially to any being that has had his freedom taken away.

DSC06516 (2)If anyone can relate to that, it’s Danny.

After growing up in Mt. Airy, he got caught up in selling drugs and, through that, using them.

“That turned my whole world around. I ended up hurting a man,” he said.

He was sentenced to 12 years. While serving that sentence at the state prison in Caledonia, a maximum security facility in the eastern part of the state, he learned of and enrolled in a newly started program called “New Leash on Life.”

In it, a inmates spent their days with dogs who lived on the grounds who were awaiting — but not always prepared for — adoption.

He jumped at the opportunity because of “my love for dogs for one thing, and wanting to put something positive in my life.”

As has been the experience with similar programs across the country, it worked, improving the lives and outlooks for both canine and human participants.

Danny remembers the first dog he was assigned — Lee, a coon dog mix who seemed pretty untrainable and also had a problem with recall. Jinjja reminded him of another dog he trained in prison, named Spirit, who was mostly feral, to the point she preferred eating bugs to eating dog food.

“She finally came around to be a great dog,” he said. In all, he probably trained 25 to 30 dogs while in prison, and just as he helped changed them, they helped change him.

DSC06542“When a dog and a man come together, somehow or another it changes your soul, that feeling that your care, that you believe, and it don’t go away … The more you work with dogs, the more you earn their trust. It’s all about trust.”

When the New Leash on Life program was launched, with funding from the humane society, at the Forsyth Correctional Center, Danny agreed to a transfer to help train inmates there to take part in the program.

He was released in 2012, after serving eight years, and was hired as an employee by the Forsyth Humane Society.

Danny, in addition to having his own business training dogs, is based at the facility and spends much of his time making house calls, going to the homes of people who are having issues with their recently adopted dogs.

The New Leash program at Forsyth Correctional Center is now on hiatus while the Humane Society undergoes a pretty big transition and restructuring. Since moving into a new building, its adoption rates have surged, and dogs are moving in and out more quickly. On top of that, there are plans for the society to assume all adoption services at Forsyth Animal Control, part of an ongoing effort to make Forsyth a “no-kill” county by 2023. The goal is to reduce the countywide euthanasia rate from 64 percent to 10 percent or less.

Under the proposal, the Humane Society would run the 215-kennel county shelter, possibly by as early as this fall.

It’s a massive joint effort between Animal Control, the Humane Society, the Animal Adoption & Rescue Foundation and other local rescue groups — aimed at better coordinating all agencies involved and giving thousands more dogs and cats a second chance.

And, as both Danny and Jinjja could probably attest, you can’t put a price tag on a second chance. I’d agree (though my hospital, judging from the one-foot high stack of unpaid bills on my desk, seems to do a pretty good job of it).

Though I’m down to my final kidney, my surgeon was pleased with how things went, confident that they removed all of the cancerous mass, and he has given me a positive prognosis with no need for follow-up treatments.

I’m feeling good enough to, as of today, fire ohmidog! back up and make it daily, or almost daily, again.

And, in about one more week, more or less, I’ll be ready to bring Jinjja back home.

Last month’s feel-good story takes bad turn

Luke the K9 solo (Courtesy of Joel Fields)

A suburban police officer who made national headlines for rescuing a doomed shelter dog and training him for police work has been fired from his job — and his whole story is now being questioned.

On top of that, the Bel-Ridge Police Department, outside St. Louis, is asking that officer Joel Fields return the dog that taxpayers, at least in part, paid to have trained, at least in part, as a police K9.

The total truth about the story is still unraveling, but the untruths unearthed so far indicate the heartwarming account Fields gave the news media wasn’t entirely accurate — including the claim that the dog, named Luke, came from a shelter and was scheduled to be euthanized.

As a result, and as has happened before, all across the Internet, thousands of hearts were falsely warmed.

As usual, we can blame lazy news media, and even lazier bloggers, for the misinformation — as well as the officer whose account of saving the dog from death’s doorstep was initially accepted on its face as truthful.

fieldsFields was praised by PEOPLE and pictured as a savior by numerous dog websites after the story broke in April.

(Fortunately, ohmidog! wasn’t one of them. We’d like to say it’s because it didn’t pass our special sniff test, or get approved by our crack team of fact checkers, but it was probably more dumb luck.)

Still, there were clues — like how hard Fields seemed to be seeking publicity, the professionally made photos he supplied of him and Luke, and the boasting about all the drug busts Luke nearly immediately made as a rookie on the job.

“He made seven drug busts in less than a month and a half of working the road with me,” Fields told Fox2 News.

How true that is — as well as the rest of the story Fields gave about the retriever — are now under suspicion.

News4 in St. Louis is now reporting that Brad Croft, the owner of Universal K9, the company that helped train Luke, is saying the account Fields gave the news media was mostly lies.

“I was a little upset, because Joel was told from the day I handed him the leash of the dog that this was not a shelter dog,” said Croft.

Croft told News4 he suspects Fields was lying about the dog’s background in an effort to gain fame and “get people to back him and give him money.”

Officials are also now investigating whether Luke was fully trained and certified as a police dog.

City prosecutor Sam Alton says Fields initially told them the dog was certified as a K9, but he says they have learned that is not true. That fact could complicate any criminal court cases Luke played a role in.

Alton says Fields is now refusing to give up the dog, whose training was funded at least in part by taxpayers.

“We would like to see the taxpayers not lose money, we would like the dog to live a happy and productive life and we would like to see the dog in service as it was meant to be,” Alton said.

“Everything legally from our point of view shows that the dog belongs to the city of Bel-Ridge,” he added. “It’s unfortunate for the city, it’s unfortunate for the residents, it’s unfortunate for the dog and it’s unfortunate for him (Fields).”

Fields told News4 over the phone this week that he quit and wasn’t fired, and wouldn’t comment anymore until talking to his attorney.

KMOV.com

Bomb detecting dog in training shot and killed at New Zealand airport

grizz

A dog being trained to detect bombs at New Zealand’s Auckland Airport was shot by police — under orders from the airport — after he ran off from his handlers and caused flights to be delayed.

Airport officials said handlers, security staff and police officers spent three hours trying to capture the dog.

But, after 16 flights had to be delayed, they gave police the go ahead to shoot the 10-month-old border collie and German shorthaired pointer mix. They insisted it was a last resort.

The shooting was condemned by animal rights activists and others.

The dog, named Grizz, was training to be an Aviation Security explosion detector and was six months away from graduation, CNN reported.

After handlers tried unsuccessfully to recapture him, and to coax him off the runway, airport staff told police to shoot him.

Then they got on Twitter and reported he had been recaptured.

Not until an hour later did they reveal the dog had been killed.

According to the New Zealand Herald, Grizz was not on the tarmac but on the outer perimeter of the airfield when he was shot.

SAFE for Animals Ambassador Hans Kriek condemned the killing, asking why the animal wasn’t tranquilized, but a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said he “didn’t believe” that had been an option.

Grizz escaped from his handler at around 4.30 a.m. Friday (local time) and ran out onto the tarmac at Auckland Airport, according to the CAA spokesman.

“He was on an initial airport environment socialization program as part of his training … The airport Emergency Operations Center was activated and a full search was commenced,” he said in a statement.

But the spokesman said it was too dark and the area too large to quickly find and contain the puppy.

“We tried everything, food, toys, other dogs, but nothing would work … In these difficult circumstances the Airport’s Emergency Operations Center team decided to have the dog destroyed,” he said

Animal activist Kriek said other alternatives should have been explored.

“Ultimately they have to call the police in to shoot the dog, and the police have access to tranquilizer guns, and there’s also a zoo nearby that would have one as well. So we don’t understand why they didn’t do that,” he said.

An airport spokesman said the question of a tranquilizer gun, and the entire incident, would be reviewed.

“That’s how we do it in the country”

chickenA woman who duct-taped a dead chicken to a dog’s neck to teach it not to kill chickens defended the practice by saying that’s how they’ve always done it “in the country.”

The unidentified 74-year-old woman was cited for animal cruelty after a neighbor reported her to authorities and posted images of the dog on Facebook.

The woman is from Phenix City, Alabama, but was house sitting for a daughter in Columbus, Georgia, when the incident occurred.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said police went to the home Monday after a complaint from a citizen.

The mayor described what happened this way: “The dog kills the chicken … So she said that she duct-taped the dead chicken to the dog to, quote, ‘Teach it a lesson not to kill her chickens.'”

The woman told police that’s what people do in the country to train dogs not to kill chickens, the mayor told the Ledger-Enquirer.

Apparently, the woman had brought the live chicken with her from Alabama.

It wasn’t immediately confirmed if the dog, described as a pit bull, belonged to her or her daughter.

The incident set off a lengthy Facebook debate after Columbus resident Hannah Gillespie posted pictures of the dog:

Gillespie said in the post that the dead chicken remained taped to the dog’s neck for at least nine hours.

The ongoing Facebook debate took a dramatic turn when a someone claiming to be the woman in question posted, in a message to all the critics, that she had taken the dog to be euthanized.

Gillespie later commented on Facebook that the dog was still alive, and remained in the woman’s custody.