RPSM.Org: What it Means to Me – A Series #3

I was introduced to RPSM.org five years ago when my family adopted Barkley LeRoy and Penelope Louise, “Penny.” My experience was chronicled in my blog post, Writing Their Stories, on March 23, 2016.

The Blogging Owl has been granted permission from Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan to promote their new series, “What it Means to Me.”

Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan

This is the third post in series of reflections from the inmate trainers in their own words on what it meant to them to train a dog rescued by Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan.

Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan

Founded in 2007, RPSM has made a serious effort to effectively aid in the reduction of euthanasia rates at many animal shelters. In 2008, the RPSM Correctional Companion Program began. In a partnership with the Coldwater Prison Complex, RPSM endeavors to find homes for dogs in shelters that would otherwise be euthanized. Dogs selected for the Companion Program are carefully screened for temperament, trainability, and adaptability. They are fully vaccinated, spayed or neutered prior to enrollment in the program. Once they arrive at the complex, they are assigned to specially trained inmates who are responsible for their training and day to day care. Upon completion of the program, the dogs are ready to receive a canine good citizen certificate (CGC) and available for adoption in an approved home.

RPSM is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We are 100% donation driven. Any donations to RPSM are always 100% tax deductible. A weekly or monthly donation to RPSM provides a consistent & dependable income to fund our ongoing efforts. Non-monetary items such as flea and tick preventative, heart worm preventative, dog shampoo, fund raiser items, and more are always welcomed.


Banjo, Saved from a Kill Shelter

I have worked with RPSM for four years now, that is about 20 dogs. This job as a dog handler is very demanding, tiring, never ending, and it is the best job I have ever held. To take a dog that nobody wanted, someone abused, used as bait or other dogs to fight with, handicapped in some form or fashion and transform this unwanted animal into someone’s canine companion is probably the most rewarding part of this job. I say this because it gives me the chance to give back to society in some small way from what I took. This job gives my life meaning, doing something good for God’s creatures that have had a rough time of it through no fault of their own. They come to me as something unwanted, something discarded, something that is, no value and people ok if they are put down because they could not give them the proper care and love. So, to take the, as I call them diamond in the rough, and turn them into a precious jewel that some family cherishes, well it often brings tears of joy to my eyes.

Thirty years ago, I did not look at rescue dogs as having any real value at all. I mean they were someone’s unwanted property, with plenty of defects and defaults. Oh, how wrong I was! These dogs are the best! Some have been so abused by humans and they come in here and before long their tails are wagging, heads held high, and they are on their way to getting back to becoming a normal dog again. They forget about what people have done to them, they move on, and love just pours out of them, lots of kisses, they seem to know they are in good hands and care after a brief time and proceed forward to turning their lives around and becoming a well-behaved dog. When I was so blessed to have the honor to work with these rescue dogs, I was made to read a book, “One at a Time” and that book really hit me between the eyes as to WHY rescue shelters are so needed in America. So many dogs are put to sleep, very nice way to say we kill them when we are tired of them, they are no longer cute puppies, moving, no longer wanted, etc. One part of this book really struck home with me and my new job so much that I have it on my bulletin board and I read it daily: “Shelter Information states: HAS NO TRAINING”

You see them in shelters all the time: young, healthy male dogs, large, strong, untrained, out of control. Their dispositions are good, they have friends, even loving personalities BUT THEY ARE ROWDY, they jump on people, they don’t know how to walk on a leash, and they have no idea how people want them to behave.

There is nothing wrong with these dogs, they’re just being dogs. Just being dogs, however, is not enough. As domesticated animals, we ask them to live compatibly with us in our world, and expect them to behave in certain ways as they move with us through our day. But dogs do not automatically know what is expected of them; they need to be shown and taught.

But it’s a common story and there are lots of them. LOTS! Their behavior makes it difficult for them to attract adopters. Although staff and volunteers consciously try to give these dogs some basic training as they handle them day to day in the shelter, it’s just not enough of what these dogs need. And so, dogs come to shelters in droves, surrendered by their fed-up guardians. These dogs are not lost causes. Far from it. With consistent positive reinforcement, they would easily learn how they must fit into human culture.

They’re not bad dogs, not by a long shot. They’re good dogs. Which is exactly what the shelter workers assure them of as their lives are ended. Lord! May I never lose sight of the seriousness of my job, Amen.

Really there is more than just one dog that has impacted my life. I have had a dog named Duke, he was a pit bull mix, came from an Ohio kill shelter, was scheduled to be put down, but somehow RPSM got a hold of him and he ended up with me. And he turned out to be the sweetest dog. He just showed love daily and I truly believed he knew that his life was spared by this program and was grateful each and every day here was here. I had one “special” dog named Banjo. This poor dog spent 14 months of his life in a shelter, so he was 6 months old at this time!! This poor dog was scared to death of any and everything, from trash bags, leaves blowing in the wind, thunder, gunshots, ATV’s, trucks, people, doors closing, you name it, Banjo was scared out of his wits about it. He was my biggest challenge to date. I did not think this environment would lend to helping Banjo at all as there is SO much noise, and movement, and lots of people all the time. But over time Banjo started to trust me, as we worked slowly taking our sweet time at every new distraction that we uncovered that scared Banjo and worked on it daily for short amounts of time until he was somewhat comfortable being around it, and well, Banjo turned out to just be a super sweet dog. He was just so gentle and full of love and Banjo ended up in a very special FUR ever home.

See, Banjo ended up being adopted by a family who had previously adopted his brother Boone! Can you believe it!! I mean Banjo hit the jackpot and him and his brother are doing just super together. Banjo was one dog that really made me put in a lot of work, I mean lots more than say what we usually received, which is a lot of work;-) but Banjo needed so much extra work and care to get him through his fears and insecurities before he could ever become someone’s companion. But, I realized just how important this job really is. I am not saying me personally, I mean Nationwide for men and women, kids who work with rescue dogs with special needs and turn them into wonderful happy well-adjusted pets.

Well, I have shed more than one tear over Banjo believe me, Banjo made me fully realize how important this sort of work truly is and how much it is needed to help these wonderful dogs who through no fault of their own get the short end of the stick and come out a fully transformed creature, it is amazing to be a part of, such a blessing It was such an honor and privilege for me to have had the chance to work with such a super dog as Banjo and to watch him work his way through all that was holding him back and to what he left out of here as was something that still tugs at my heart each and every time I think of Banjo.

Written by Banjo’s Trainer

Ways Readers Can Help

The Prison Companion Program has given a second chance to over 500 dogs that would have otherwise be euthanized. We need your help to continue fulfilling our mission of saving these dogs that deserve a second chance! RPSM is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization running solely on donations. Any donations to RPSM are deductible on your federal tax return. A weekly or monthly donation to RPSM provides a consistent & dependable income to fund our ongoing efforts of saving animals.

Please visit Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan’s website at http://www.rpsm.org for more ways you can donate and become involved in giving hope not only to the pets RPSM rescues but to all the lives these wonderful pets touch.

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