RPSM.Org: What it Means to Me – A Series #5

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

To me, RPSM means being able to make a difference in life.

Being able to make a difference in the lives of animals who have only known the worst of humanity, and what it means to love a dog.

My outlook on rescue dogs has changed because I learned that you can teach an old dog new tricks lol. But being able to go from underdog to wonder dog I think is amazing. I’ve seen dogs go from having no life in their eyes to the beginning of a twinkle, a spark of hope. It’s opened a whole new world to me.

Anything I can do, I want to do to make a difference.

The best success story from when a dog came in and when it left I think would be Daisy the wiener dog. I remember when she first came in, her confidence was very low and she was very apprehensive, but seeing her come out of her shell was a job. And learning new things from the work put in was a fun experience. She taught me how to use my voice (Good Girl, Great Job).

A dog that has changed me or meant a lot to me, I want to say Reuben, but if it wasn’t for the things I learned from Levi and Daisy, I don’t think it would have been possible to have had any success stories to tell. Levi changed my understanding. It made me consider what dogs want, and not what I think they want. He made me dig deeper into learning how they think and coming up with ways to help them. He also made me dig deeper into myself and the energy I produce, and how contagious it can be. Levi gave me the drive and motivation to push further.

Written by Prison Inmate Dog Trainer

How you can donate to RPSM.org

Amazon Wishlist

AMAZON WISHLIST FOR REFURBISHED PETS OF SOUTHERN MICHIGAN

Press the link above and to see what you can donate today to Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan.

Amazon Smile

Amazon Smile & choose Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan as Your Charity!

“AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization.”

Andy’s Paw Prints

20265104_10155398644416093_6353855520424634057_n

 

Andy’s Paw Prints creates custom pet portraits from your pet photos and donates 25% of their profit from every portrait sale to help animals in need. Make sure when you order to select Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan on your order form to receive the donation. You can check out all their styles and get more information at http://www.andyspawprints.

 

Go to the Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan to foster, adopt, and donate!

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

RPSM.Org: What it Means to Me – A Series #4

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

RPSM means more to me than one word could describe.

It’s not any on them in particular—but rather it’s a multitude of things that when added up they amount to something great! Being a part of this amazing organization has changed me in every way that a man can be changed. It is without a doubt my past 8 years working as a dog handler here in prison that has made the most impact upon my life. I believe this to be true because caring for and being responsible for the everyday lives of all the dogs assigned to me over the years has really helped me to step outside of myself—bringing me to a place of humility, patience, compassion, empathy, and love for others. I guess you could say that the bonds and relationships I’ve formed with these amazing animals has opened my eyes to a new way of life. I can honestly say, RPSM has given me the greatest gift… they have taught me a great deal about the person I aspire to be, and about the kind of life I want to live should the Lord and of course the parole board sees fit to bless me with my freedom someday.

At first thought one might think of rescue dogs as problematic or setting yourself up for failure in rescuing a dog from a shelter. After all, it’s not uncommon to discover that these dogs often times have a variety of emotional and even physical scars from their past lives. However, I have discovered that rescue dogs really have a way of pulling on your heart strings. When considering to get a new dog most people’s first reaction is to get a new 6-week-old puppy—usually a pure breed that is thought to have a good bloodline and generational history of only the most sought after traits and behaviors. However, after years of training and caring for rescued shelter dogs I believe that they can be some of the most well behaved, obedient, loving and loyal additions to any home. Surprisingly, it’s the mixed breeds (the mutts) that really make some of the best dogs I’ve ever encountered. All they need is love and someone to give them a second chance and that’s what RPSM does…

I guess that you could say that I’ve had a few success stories over the years. Avery, a Border Collie mix was one of the first RPSM dogs I’ve trained. He graduated knowing over 25 commands and tricks—and actually became of the most highly profiled adoptions being adopted by a wealthy TV mogul who later went on to stardom by having his likeness being chosen as the face of Bissel Cleaning Products across the country.

Then there was Becca the Australian Shepard/Border Collie Mix, another exceptionally talented dog that graduated at the top of the class and then became an Assisted Therapy Dog works with lots of different organizations and became a link in the chain by which literally hundreds of lives will be brightened and changed through the love of this one dog.

Mac the Black Lab Mix

I would have to say that one of the best success stories, however was Mac the Black Lab Mix. Mac was pretty smart as we soon learned. Although he knew very little when he first arrived—we were able to teach him all the basics and a variety of extra cool tricks that later proved to be influential in grasping the attention of many, if not all of the “Last Chance Teens” at the special school where he became the newest four-legged staff member. It wasn’t long before updates began to come in explaining what a huge impact Mac was having on the lives of all the students. One such student prior to Mac’s arrival at the school did anything he could to get himself kicked out of school. Now he is constantly petting Mac, telling Mac how awesome he is. Also, he often says to Mac, “I love you buddy!”. It’s reported that he always says good-bye to Mac before he leaves school every day and has had perfect attendance so far. Mac by the way, a “Shelter Dog”, passed his CGC (Canine Good Citizen) test and actually qualified as class valedictorian. In October of last Mac made the front page of the school newspaper. Mac’s schedule at the school has been arraigned so that he has time at the end of every day to spend with a severely autistic boy. Mac’s owner reports that she works with new teachers who are given a 30-day interview to see how things are going for them. When they were asked, who has helped them the most, Mac’s name came up. The assistant principal informed her that this was the first time a dog’s name was ever mentioned and to keep up the good work. Needless to say, we never imagined that one of the dogs we trained would have such a lasting impression and positive impact on people the way Mac has. To me this is truly a success story!

What rescued dogs like Avery can teach us

It wasn’t until I came to prison that I actually began to have a close and personal relationship with God. I fondly remember one exceptionally talented dog who taught me, or should I say, reminded me of something that helped me in my walk with God. One of the basic commands we teach the dogs is how to heel. This is when the dog walks along side of you stays in line with your heel. Some dogs master this command while others require correction when they drift off course. One day I was walking Avery (the dog assigned to me) a little squirrel scampered across the path in front of us. One minute we were walking along, then everything changed in a hurry! I felt the tension as Avery’s body became rigid and he began to pull towards the furry critter. Giving him a distraction, I did a 180˚ about face in the other direction to divert his attention back to me. Avery eventually came and resumed his rightful position by my side, however, his neck was twisted back with is eyes tightly fixed upon the bushy tail. Although he was with me physically his mind was with that little squirrel. Eventually I was able to regain control of Avery using techniques I’ve learned. This incident reminded me of how we can so easily become distracted with things that take our focus off God.

Sometimes we get so excessively compulsive in our work, our hobbies, or even other things we have absolutely no business whatsoever in trying to pursue. We become so fixated on these things to the point that we lose focus of our rightful position and all responsibilities. Often times this results in bad choices that often times have bad consequences. It’s in these times that we must yield to God’s correction and get back on “heel” in our walk with Him. When we stay on the path that God sets before us, we are better equipped to make wise decisions in all areas of our lives. However, step off the path one way or the other we can be lead astray. Left to our own devices we have the ability to get into so much mischief. While it’s clear that I’ve learned a lot from little Avery like: obedience, trust, loyalty, forgiveness, and love—which we all need to practice.

I would have never thought that my life would have someday landed me in prison—not in a million years! Even more surprising, not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that someday I’d be training dogs in prison. As I’m the one doing the training—in the process—it’s the dogs, like Avery that have taught me in more ways than one. Thankfully and for the time being, I’ve got Prison, Dog’s, and God to guide me in the right direction. That’s what’s really going on amongst the wiggles, wags, and whiskers!

Written by Prison Inmate Dog Trainer

How you can donate to RPSM.org

Amazon Wishlist

AMAZON WISHLIST FOR REFURBISHED PETS OF SOUTHERN MICHIGAN

Press the link above and to see what you can donate today to Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan.

Amazon Smile

Amazon Smile & choose Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan as Your Charity!

“AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization.”

Go to the Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan to foster, adopt, and donate!

The Blogging Owl

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.

 

 

 

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.

Rpsm

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.

Amazon Wishlist

AMAZON WISHLIST FOR REFURBISHED PETS OF SOUTHERN MICHIGAN

Press the link above and to see what you can donate today to Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan.

Amazon Smile

Amazon Smile & choose Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan as Your Charity!

“AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization.”