Mercedes, deaf but giving a gift of love that is unmatched
This is a question that seems to keep popping up. I had assumed that even without extensive press coverage most dog lovers in this area were aware that Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston Missouri is a participant in the Missouri Department of Corrections Puppies for Parole program. I further assumed because it is an almost obsessive topic of conversation for me everyone knew about these dogs. Forgive my attack of ego.....
With few exceptions, when you go to Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary in Jackson Missouri or Silverwalk Hounds in Cape Girardeau to look at the dogs, they have been trained by inmate trainers. These dogs are chosen according to a particular standard which includes a solid temperament. They live with the trainers in SECC and are taught the necessary skills to successfully test for the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen certification. When you adopt one of our dogs, it includes a CGC workshop to enable you to learn what the dog already knows and you can take the dog through the certification yourself.
By the time these dogs complete their training, they have been properly socialized and are ready to be the best canine companions anyone could wish to find. In addition to the training, the men spend more quality time with the dogs than most of us have time to spend with our own dogs. This allows the dogs to be further evaluated according to the type of home they would be best suited for, resulting in solid adoptions with no returns.
The program began a little more than a year and a half ago. The Caruthersville Humane Society was the original shelter providing the dogs. One of the dogs that came from Caruthersville is now one of the first residential dogs in the Department of Mental Health facility in Poplar Bluff. Uno was a one eyed Beagle thrown away like too many wonderful dogs who would have been nothing more than a kill statistic. Instead, he received the necessary training to become a dog sharing the gift of love with troubled individuals. He is a super star in his field.
When Safe Harbor began sending their dogs one of the first was Mercedes, a deaf mix also a victim of a society looking for perfection. Deaf dogs are a challenge but by using hand signals her training quickly progressed. She went to live with a 10 year old autistic child that only communicates using sign language. All children benefit from having pets but a pet that can communicate in an even more special way made this a match made in Heaven.
Since then, the trainers have expanded their knowledge to include a blind/deaf dog named Windsor that is truly touched by the angels. I have done a couple of posts on Windsor in the past. He was the Australian Shepherd abandoned on a busy highway, found by a Good Samaritan and brought to Safe Harbor. He went on to be the 500th dog adopted through the Boot Healers program. In his days with the trainers he inspired hope in all he met. He is a cherished pet enjoying the life too many dogs are being denied.
Since that time the men have learned what it is to not only teach a dog the basic commands but also what true rehabilitation is all about. As we send dogs with more difficult emotional damage, they quickly rise to the occasion and look at what is possible. In some cases, the dogs have suffered at the hands of humans. They carry an emotional baggage that must be addressed in addition to learning the basic obedience commands. When they emerge from the program they have learned that humans are worthy of love and they are ready to take their place in homes or working disciplines.
The trainers are actively studying all aspects of dog training. They are using the principals of scent work, agility, therapy work, play training and above all, socialization to insure the dogs they produce are above average. With the aid of a guest trainer, they will soon learn the basics of herding. In a rural area such as ours, a working dog is invaluable. The sky's the limit when looking beyond the norm and thinking outside the box.
The following websites will take you to the DOC website to view all dogs presently available in Missouri and provides more detailed information on the program.
I have included the websites for Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary, Silverwalk Hounds, Caruthersville Humane Society, the Sikeston Area Humane Society and the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri. The popularity of this program has led us to be able to bring dogs in from several different sources and yes, we are keeping a wish list.
What are prison dogs? They are some of the finest companions available in the State of Missouri.