Category: The Dog Program

Willy: The Blue Heeler

 

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After 6 months I finally got another dog. And this one is awesome! His name is Willy. He is a Blue Heeler (aka: Australian Cattle Dog).

The only thing I know about Willy is that he’s a DOC drop-out. That means he was training to become a drug sniffing dog, but didn’t make the cut. As for ”why” he didn’t make the cut, I have no idea, because Willy is highly intelligent and learns super quick.

I’ve had Willy for about two weeks and he already knows more than some dogs learn in ten weeks!

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Steven Jennings

Dogs Help Children Develop Strong Immune Systems

 

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Did you know that children who live with dogs are more likely to be healthier than those who don’t. Children with dogs get more exercise than children who live without dogs? They also spend more time laughing and being happy.

But wait, it gets better!

According to numerous studies, children with dogs in the home had fewer infectious respiratory problems, fewer ear infections, and were less likely to require antibiotics. As the children grew, they developed better immune systems throughout their childhoods.

Researchers also found that the effect was greater if the dog spent less than six hours in the house. The theory is : the longer dogs are outside, the more dirt and bacteria they bring inside. This creates ”bacterial diversity”.

Bacterial diversity helps the child’s immune system to mature faster and effectively fight off infectious agents. Researchers also claim that living with dogs may prevent children from developing asthma. Who knows if this stuff is actually true? But it kinda makes sense. Head researcher Dr. Susan Lynch says:

 

“Exposing the gastrointestinal track to pet dust and other microbes early in life prepares it to respond appropriately to a variety of invaders.”

 

Think about it…if you protect your child in an immaculate house that’s free of germs and bacteria, then one day expose your child to the outside world, and he/she gets super sick…that’s your fault!!! Especially now that you are armed with this knowledge. And since you read this from the internet, you know it’s true.

Peep this fact: “Early childhood is a critical period for developing protection against allergies and asthma.”

So all you new mothers and mothers-to-be, I strongly suggest you expose your babies to filthy bacteria ridden dogs.

Adopt a dog, and raise a healthy child.

Your welcome,
Steven

 

Dogs Can Make Children Healthier

 

ROLO GRADUATES!

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Its been an honor and a privilege working with Rolo over the past 10 weeks. He taught me just as much as I taught him.

The graduation ceremony takes place in the visiting room. The center of the room is cleared out, and all the tables and chairs are set up around the perimeter.

As we enter, half the dogs and trainers split off to left and the other half splits off to the right. The audience applauds.

We circle around the room like two trains heading for a head on collision.
Right before impact, we strategically shift and intersect one another like race cars on a figure 8 racetrack.

Before you know it, we’re all circling in the same direction.

The assistant trainer (he’s an inmate) stands in the center with a microphone and gives a series of commands, such as: sit, down, stay, come, circle, reverse circle.

All the dogs perform beautifully.

Then we circle off the floor in a single file line.

A crew of handlers quickly set up an obstacle course. Rolo and I are last in line.

As we wait our turn I kneel down by Rolo and talk to him. I point to all the other dogs who are running the course. I whisper the commands as the dogs perform them. Rolo watches and listens.

Before we know it, the assistant trainer announces, “Up next is Steven and Rolo”!

We’re off!

“Rolo, heel!” I say as I lead him to the slinky tunnel. He cruises through with ease.

I lead him to a make shift door. “Rolo, sit!” I say as I give the hand signal. He sits like a champ. The door opens. “Rolo, heel!” He follows me to three steps that leads up to a ten foot plank.

All the other dogs conquer it in one continuous motion. I have Rolo sit and wait. Then I say, “okay, let’s go!” He jumps up and trots across. Before he jumps down, I tell him to sit. Then I say, “Dance pretty” as I guide him up on his hind legs and make him shift back and forth before he does a 360.”

This is all extra. All the other dogs ran through the course non-stop.

Next is the cone weave. Before he starts I say, “Rolo sit.” He does. “Rolo, focus.” He looks me in the eye and holds the stare until I say, “Lets go!” He quickly weaves in and out of the cones.

“Rolo, sit.” He does. “You did good! Give me five.” He does. Then we trot over to our seat.

After the obstacle course, its time to give an oral presentation introducing ourselves and the dogs.

This is my 2nd oral presentation. The audience consist of my peers, high ranking DOC staff, sponcers, volunteers, and members from the community.

I get up in front of the audience and say:

“Hello, my name is Steven. This is Dicky. And This is Rolo. Rolo is a Jack Russel Rat Terrier Mix. He was a stray that came to us through PAWS. When we first got Rolo he didn’t know any of his commands. Today he knows all of his commands. For more on Rolo, here’s Dicky.”

That’s it. Nice and easy. In and out!

After all the speeches, Dicky, Rolo, and I went to a table and met with an elderly lady who adopted Rolo. We gave her all the info we had on Rolo, which included a ten week journal of his progress.

Then it was time to say goodbye. A sad time…but a happy time too. Rolo found a good home and will be well cared for.

Now I’m just waiting for my next dog. Stay tuned.

 

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Steven D. Jennings

 

Adopting A Dog

 

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Adopting a dog will change your life. I know because it has changed mine. I don’t actually adopt, I just work with dogs and get them ready for adoption. In doing so, I reap tremendous life changing benefits.

I’m in a program called Freedom Tails. For 10 weeks I live with a dog 24/7. During that time I give my four-legged friend basic obedience training, house training, boundaries, socialization skills, structure, and grooming. These dogs go from “undesired” shelter or rescue dogs to “highly desirable” well mannered and well trained dogs.

I’ve been in prison for 22 years. In just a few weeks, Freedom Tails has enabled me to develope valuable life skills. The dogs teach me how to be responsible, patient, consistent, and punctual.

If you don’t have a dog in your life, you’re not living life to the fullest.

For those who have disabilities (mental or physical), a dog can be a life changing experience. Dogs can offer hope, love, and joy to those who struggle to find it anywhere else. Dogs can help build confidence, a sense of purpose, and self-esteem to those who struggle in these areas.

ADOPT A DOG. This simple act has the ability to work miracles.

For more info on the dog program & dog adoption, please visit:

HAVA
Orvis Magazine
Between The Lines
Freedom Tails
Brigadoon Service Dogs
SCCC Freedom Tail Program
PAWS

 

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Steven Jennings

 

Rolo


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I’ve been putting in some serious hours training my dog, Rolo. And it’s definitely paying off. I train him in increments based on his focus level, stubbornness, and body language. Even “superdogs” like Rolo get burnt out and need a break.

That’s when I say, “Let’s go play!” I let him play for a few minutes, with the racquetball, or just running around. Then it’s back to training. Every activity we do offers an opportunity to train. Rolo knows how to: Heel, Sit, Down, Stay, and get his leash. I’m learning so much in this program.

Until next time, love your dog.

 

rolo kiss

 

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Steven Jennings

Rolo Arrives

 

rolo

 

I got a new dog named, Rolo. He’s a 1 year old, 17 pound, young, energetic, highly intelligent, Jack Russell Rat Terrier. He has zero name recognition and doesn’t know any commands. They say he was a stray that got picked up off the streets.

The first thing I taught him was: HEEL and SIT. This is important for his safety as we travel through the unit and through big steel doors. Before I give a command, I say his name. Within 48 hours he knew his name and was performing beautifully.

Now it’s all about letting Rolo get comfortable in his new environment before I move on to other obedience training. Right now we’re getting to know each other. This is crucial before the real training begins.

This dog is great!

rollo

 

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Steven Jennings

Yahoo Leaves

 

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I had him for 76 glorious days. In that time, I witnessed an impressive transformation. He went from a dog that didn’t even know his name, or any basic commands, to a dog that obeys all his commands and even learned a couple new tricks.

At 3pm a Sargent came to my cell and told me to take Yahoo to Master Control at 8pm. Since he didn’t get adopted, he’s going back to PAWS (a local animal shelter). That gave me 5 hours to say goodbye. I enjoyed every second of it.

During count, I layed on the floor with him, using his body as a pillow. My hands massaged his neck and ears nonstop. I skipped going to the chow hall for dinner and ate with Yahoo instead. Tonight we had my Spectacular Brown Rice creation. I mixed a generous amount into his normal dog food. He loved it!

At 6pm I took him out to the yard to say goodbye to all who grew to love him. He got a lot of attention and love.

Then from 7-8pm Dicky and I hung out in the cell with Yahoo. We brushed him, gave him treats and spoiled him. He could definitely sense something was different.

At 8pm, Dicky grabbed the leash with Yahoo and I pushed him in his wheelchair as all three of us headed to Master Control. That’s where we met the Head Trainer. She told us we did a good job and thanked us.

My last goodbye consisted of a kiss on his nose followed by, “That was from my momma.” Then another kiss on the nose followed by, “That was from Suzie.” Then I pinched both his cheeks, kissed both sides of his nose and said, “And that’s from me!”

I handed over the leash and watched him disappear through two gates that lead to freedom. I got a little more emotional than I expected. Even though I mentally prepared myself, and I knew this moment would come, nothing can replicate or prepare me for the actual event of saying goodbye.

Yahoo was an absolute joy and pleasure to work with. He will forever live in my heart.

Now I’m ready for the next dog…bring it on!

 

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Steven Jennings

Yahoo & I Graduate!

 

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It’s been an honor and a privilege working with my dog, Yahoo, over the past 10 weeks. He taught me just as much as I taught him.

For example, as I was teaching him to sit, he was teaching me how to teach him to sit. He taught me how to properly give the command: “Yahoo, sit.” Always say his name first. As I’m giving the command, I’m giving the hand signal: elbow in, palm up, then I raise my hand up through his line of vision (the motion is similar to curling a dumbbell). This is done approximately 6 inches from his face as I’m giving the verbal command, “Yahoo, sit”.

If he doesn’t sit (and he didn’t in the beginning) then I would lift on his leash and push down his rear, without saying the command again. So basically, I’d give the command, then make him do it.

This simple but complex method teaches the dog to sit on the FIRST command. Opposed to repeating the command over and over as I try to get him to sit. By repeating the command over and over, I’d be diluting the cue and teaching him that he doesn’t have to obey on the first command. These are the little things that make a big difference.

Yahoo taught me how important it is to be consistent. No short cuts. Do it right, every time.

Yahoo also taught me the importance of communication. My celly and I have to work together, and do things the exact same way in order to be efficient and effective with our training efforts.

The graduation ceremony takes place in the visiting room. The center of the room is cleared out, and all the tables and chairs are set up around the perimeter.

The first class of 2016 enters. It’s an elaborate entrance as half the dogs and trainers split off to left and the other half splits off to the right. The audience applauds.

We circle around the room like two trains heading for a head-on collision. Right before impact, we strategically shift and intersect one another like race cars on a figure 8 racetrack. Before you know it, we’re all circling in the same direction.

The assistant trainer (he’s an inmate) stands in the center with a microphone and gives a series of commands, such as: sit, down, stay, come, circle, reverse circle.

All the dogs perform beautifully. Then we circle off the floor in a single file line. A crew of handlers quickly set up an obstacle course. Yahoo and I are fourth in line.

The assistant trainer announces, “Up next is Steven and Yahoo!”

We’re off!

“Yahoo, heel!” I say as I lead him to the slinky tunnel. He cruises through with ease.

I lead him to a make shift door. “Yahoo, sit!” I say as I give the hand signal. He sits like a champ. The door opens. “Yahoo, heel!” He follows me to three steps that leads up to a ten foot plank. (The first time we attempted this in rehearsals, Yahoo didn’t want anything to do with it. So I spent one week teaching him to jump up on chairs and benches.) We get to the plank, Yahoo conquers it with confidence and ease. Next is the cone weave. Yahoo easily weaves in and out of every cone without making a single mistake.

I’m so proud of this nine year old dog. Whoever said, “You can’t teach old dogs new tricks” never met Yahoo!

After the obstacle course, it’s time to give an oral presentation introducing ourselves and the dogs.

I had never given an oral presentation before. The audience consists of my peers, high ranking DOC staff, sponcers, volunteers, and members from the community. To say I’m nervous would be an understatement! But I gotta face this fear and overcome it.

I’m fourth in line. As my turn approaches, my heart beats faster. I take deep breaths and compose myself as I mentally rehearse my speech. The microphone reaches my hand…it’s time! I get up in front of the audience and say:

“Hello, my name is Steven. This is Dicky. And THIS is Yahoo. Yahoo is a 9 year old Border Collie/Lab mix. He came to us from PAWS after his elderly owner passed away. When we first got Yahoo he didn’t know any of his commands. Today he knows all his commands. Yahoo is even-tempered and well behaved. For more on this magnificent breed, here’s Dicky.”

That’s it! I kept it nice and simple. In and out! After all the speeches, we were awarded these certificates:

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The graduation concluded with cupcakes, juice, and socializing with the audience. Out of 12 dogs, 4 of them got adopted. Those 4 dogs, and their handlers, each get a “meet and greet” table. At this table, the handlers get with the adopters and give a complete assessment and breakdown of the dog. The adopters also get the 10 week journal that was kept throughout the entire training process.

Yahoo didn’t get adopted…not yet anyway. So Dicky and I got to bring him with us back to our lavish penthouse.

If Yahoo doesn’t get adopted, he’ll go to a rescue shelter.

ADOPT YAHOO…HE’S READY!

Yahoo is well behaved, and very mellow. He needs a home with someone who is always home, such as an elderly person. Yahoo knows all his commands and is potty trained and crate trained. All he wants to do is lay by your feet, eat, and follow you around. He needs a low energy owner with no other pets or kids. He doesn’t need a lot of space or exercise. I run with him, but he’d rather walk. He’ll alert you if someone is at the door or prowling around.

For the right person, Yahoo will make a wonderful companion.

Check out PAWS for info on adopting.

For more info on The Dog Program:

HAVA
Orvis Magazine
Between The Lines
Freedom Tails
Brigadoon Service Dogs
SCCC Freedom Tail Program

 

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Steven Jennings

A Typical Day With My Dog, Yahoo

 

Yahoo week 5

 

Having a dog is so awesome.
Having a dog in prison…priceless!

I’ve never had a celly jump up with excitement the second I walk in the door. And on the flip side, I’ve never been excited to return to my cell. I am extremely thankful and appreciative for this magnificent animal, and it is my honor to share a cell with him.

Here is a typical day with the best celly I’ve ever had:

I wake up around 7am and open his crate. He comes bursting out, tail a wagging.

I massage his face, neck, and ears as I kiss his nose, and say in a soft loving voice, “Good morning buddy. I love you…yes I do….yes I do….awww…..does that feel good…. huh…..does that feel good (kiss kiss) I love you…” This goes on for a minute or two, or three….okay, maybe four or five.

After our brief good morning hellos, I say, “Yahoo, sit.” He sits and watches me with hungry eyes as I measure out three quarters of a cup of premium dry dog food. He watches me pour it in his bowl.

I back away and say, “Yahoo, wait.” He patiently waits as he literally drools on the floor.

Then I say, “Yahoo, eat.” And he digs in.

As he eats, I go brush my grill, fix the Euro-Hawk, and drain the lizzard.

Then I take Yahoo out for his morning duties. He’s like clock work. He’s potty trained very well and will even go on command. All I gotta say is, “Yahoo, Break!” He’ll then look for the perfect blade of grass, lift his leg, and give the insects a golden shower.

Throughout the day, 90% of my interaction with Yahoo is an opportunity to train. He heels by my side on the leash. He stops and sits at every doorway. He lays down. He stays. He comes. He goes in his crate. All of this is on command.

I’ll drop food on the floor and say, “leave it!” He leaves it.

In five minutes I taught him how to jump straight up. First I get him all excited. Then I say, “Yahoo, jump!” And he does it.

At 4:30pm my celly, Dicky, feeds him again. Same amount, same method. Yahoo is fat, so he’s on a diet.

In the evenings I do a little jogging with Yahoo. As we run, he stays by my side, doesn’t get in the way, and keeps pace with a variety of speeds.

At the end of the day I lay on the floor with him as I pet and talk to him. Then he goes into his crate, and I crawl up on my bunk.

Yahoo would be an awesome dog for someone who is always home. All he wants to do is relax with humans, eat, and sleep. He doesn’t like to leave the cell and he doesn’t like other animals. Yahoo needs a quiet home with a relaxed, low energy owner. For that person, Yahoo would make the perfect companion.

For information on how to adopt Yahoo & other dogs, go to: HAVA

Or contact Christine Balcom at: beesnblossoms@live.com

 

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Steven Jennings

 

PS – Look! I got Yahoo to smile for the camera. 🙂

OCD, A Hairy Dog, And A Prison Cell

 

Yahoo, yellow

 

I keep my prison cell immaculate. Everything has its place.

Cosmetics are lined up perfectly, labels out, finger width apart, from tallest to smallest.

Shoes lined up perfectly, one inch apart.

Clothes neatly hung, starting with pants, ending with shirts and a coat. Buttons and zippers facing out.

Socks, underwear, t-shirts, and towels, all folded perfectly… seems facing out. I don’t stuff one sock into the other. That stretches them out. I fold them.

Over the years my OCD created a lot of havoc between cellmates and I.

In addition to everything I just mentioned, I also like the floor to be disinfected and spotless.

These days I have a celly who could care less about my OCD and spotless floor. He’s a 9 year old black lab/collie mix. His name is Yahoo. And let me tell you, Yahoo sheds more than one thousand Ball Pythons in mid July!

He’s also an awesome cure for OCD. I love him so much that I just don’t care about all the XL sweaters and Fur Coats he leaves behind.

The first week I got him, I was cleaning my floor at least 6 times a day. I would try to drop the doggie treat in his mouth so I wouldn’t get his saliva on my hands. I was washing my hands a million times per day. I wouldn’t touch my cup or bowl after touching Yahoo, unless I washed first.

And oh, did I mention I also have a disabled human celly? His name is Dickie. He’s in a wheelchair due to Guillian syndrome. He has a ton of medical gear in here. He’s messy, sloppy, and unorganized.

IT WAS JUST TOO MUCH!!!

So I decided to use the power of MIND, and cure myself of OCD. To a degree.

I’ve had Yahoo four weeks and I now wipe my hand on my pants to get rid of his saliva before I grab my cup to take a drink of dog haired water. Everyday I’m picking or spitting dog hair outta my mouth. I lay down next to him on the floor. Then step out into the day room to brush myself off. I view it as a form of dust mopping. I get to love on Yahoo while cleaning the floor. Its a win win!

My perspective determines my attitude. Both are within my control.

In the past, I didn’t handle things appropriately. As a result, I suffered the consequences.

Today I simply do what I know to be right. As a result, the blessings speak for itself. I’M IN THE DOG PROGRAM!

 

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Steven Jennings

 

PS – Yahoo has earned his yellow bandanna. Sweet! He is progressing beautifully! Now I gotta try to get him to smile for the camera 😉