Monday, August 10, 2009

Pups Arrive at Prison!

Before sharing details about the puppies' move to prison, ICAN sends a big thank you to Jamie for all the time and effort and love she gave the pups for the past 7 1/2 weeks! What a great start in life they had with you, Jamie. Thank you for EVERYTHING!

What an eventful day Tuesday, August 4th, was for everyone! The nine TSF pups were loaded in two large dog crates in the early morning hours and driven away from the only home they'd known. An hour later they arrived at their new home for the next 2 months - the Plainfield Correctional Facility, a medium security men's prison. The weather was ominous - dark skies, winds, impending rain and lots of it predicted - as supplies and the pups in crates were unloaded from the van and taken inside.

ICAN staff and prison staff took the pups to a school room and then to a large and lovely courtyard off of the room....the crates opened, and puppies tumbled out and then flew everywhere about the greenspace! After a few moments with pees and poos completed, the pups began to sniff around and explore the new landscape. The prison staff couldn't stop smiling; they are so happy to have us there.

Suprintendent Knight, the superintendent shared, “I’ve seen some of the hardest individuals turn into the biggest babies, rolling around and playing with the dogs,” she said. “It truly transforms them because they have to care for something else,

be responsible, and put their needs aside. Animals have a very calming effect on the population. They can be who they want to be around the animals and not have to put up any walls or pretenses.”

When the raindrops started a few moments later, 8 of the 9 pups hustled back into the school room.....except for Ms. Dora who was more interested in the grass, and the rain, and the thunder, and the pavement, and the "this" and the "that". Finally, we got her inside to her displeasure. She got over this displeasure by tackling Dega and chewing on his head. She's a wild one.

Enter eight handlers from the prison's substance abuse unit - the pups new trainers. All ages. Seven of the eight men are new to the ICAN program; John, however, was a babysitter for an ICAN dog about 4 years ago when he was housed at the Branchville Correctional Facility. (He later shared that it tore him up when the dog he babysat named Daisey left the facility for good.) The nine pups were released and ran toward the men who all were tentative about how to react...Should they pet the dogs? Could they pick them up? In a place where you ask for permission to do everything, it tugged on your heart to watch them try to figure out what was the appropriate and correct response to these nine furry, bouncing dogs. But they were all smiling.

Sam was the first handler to take the plunge of making himself comfy with the pups and this set the tone for the others. John then sat with Charlotte and played gently with her and shared that he was a welder but that he might go into dog training when he was released. Brandon scooped up Dora and shared that he originally had not been assigned Dora. But when he heard her name, he had to have her. At the time of his arrest, he had a dog named Dora at home who he adored. After his incarceration, his dog Dora stopped eating and passed away, he believes, from a broken heart at his absence.

The first lesson for these handlers....pee and poo cleanup. No time to learn like the present! Case Work Manager Joyce Lingle at the correctional facility had baked and decorated a cake in the shape of a dog. After the cake was gone and the pups' rousing 40-minute-playtime was up, each pup dropped to the floor (or climbed up on the very cool metal outcropping along the base of the windows) and fell asleep soundly. With the pups at rest, I chatted with several of the handlers and shared a little with them about Tony Stewart Foundation support and the kindness we have been shown by the foundation. They said they'd love to invite the foundation in to show what the pups are learning.

Nearly 2 hours into the arrival, ICAN trainers gathered the group to talk about how to proceed with introducing the pups to the facility, other inmates, and so on. All of the men were kind and respectful to all of us and to all of the puppies. Rest assured, the pups are in good hands and are off to a great start in their lives of service work.

Here are the Plainfield Handlers names and Pup Assignments:

Brandon/ Dora

Kris/ Riley

Jeff/ Hunter

John/ Bella

Jason/ Racer

Casey/ Dega

Sam/ Lilly

O'Neill/ Charlotte

John and Casey are both responsible for Bristol


  1. Thanks for sharing the pups first day in Plainfield! I'm so excited for the pups and for the men who will be caring for them.

  2. Thanks, Sara! We are, too! More photos and info to come this week!