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!
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:
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.
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!
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!
Early in the morning, I was awoken by a soft gentle knock on my cell door. I thought I was dreaming. Then my dog, Yahoo, made it clear that this was no dream. He started barking at the officer who was knocking on my door.
I jumped out of my top bunk and opened the door. That’s when I knew the entire unit was being shook down. There were correctional officers everywhere!
In the past I would’ve been nervous. But these days I have nothing to hide.
From the very start of this shakedown, something was different. It was the soft, gentle knock…opposed to the loud aggressive pounding that usually accompany these shakedowns. Because I’m a dog handler, there is a sign on my door that says:
Do Not Knock On Door.
Respect And Beware Of Dog.
And Follow Trainers Requests.
Wow! That’s different.
After the strip search, I put Yahoo in the outside kennel. Then I headed to the gym, as instructed. We all sat in there for 6 hours as the SWAT team searched every cell in the unit.
When it was all said and done they found tattoo guns, heroin, meth, and porn. Or at least that’s what I was told.
The search report in my cell said, “Nothing found.” It feels good to live a life free of contraband and misconduct. I’ve lived on both sides of the spectrum… and I must say, life is so much better and less stressful when one lives by the law of the land. For a glimpse of my earlier incarcerated years and all the misconduct I engaged in, please read my ebook, Stone City: Life In The Penitentiary.
WARNING: The images within Stone City are raw and uncensored as they were taken with illegal cellphones that were smuggled in by convicts. Many of the stories are graphic and violent. Viewer discretion is advised.
Prison is full of drama, negativity, and hate. But thanks to programs like NA, prison also offers hope, time to reflect, time to heal, and plenty of time for rehabilitation.
Some of the tools I’m finding from within NA are very effective and powerful. They go beyond addiction and can be applied by anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Here are just a few that I cultivated after reading Chapter 9 in the big blue NA book (sixth edition). I’m calling them, “JUST FOR TODAY” tools. I’ve written these down and posted them above my mirror. So now, when I look in the mirror, I look deep into my eyes as I recite my newly found JUST FOR TODAY tools. This is what I tell myself:
JUST FOR TODAY I will live in the spirit of love.
JUST FOR TODAY my thoughts will be on love and understanding as I enjoy my blessings and all the things that bring me happiness.
JUST FOR TODAY I will have faith in my abilities to avoid conflict and maintain a circle of harmony with everyone I encounter.
JUST FOR TODAY I will be impeccable with my words and only say things that are positive and encouraging.
JUST FOR TODAY I will be the best person I can be as I treat everyone with dignity and respect.
After I read these to myself, I give Yahoo a big hug and kiss his nose.
Over the years I have slowly learned how to use my hardships as a pathway to peace. As I reflect back on the many negative incidents I’ve imposed upon myself, I am now able to use them as stepping stones within my pathway to peace.
I understand where I went wrong in the past.
If someone challenged me…I’d beat them down! If I felt disrespected…I’d beat them down. I didn’t know any other way. Fighting was a way for me to be victorious. Today, victory comes with effective problem solving and the ability to co exist with the most challenging of personalities.
Fighting and violence is no longer an option for me. A Pyrrhic victory is an epic failure! That’s why it’s crucial that I find a better way and create effective tools that work for me. That way, if I’m ever in a situation where some fool runs up in my cell wanting to fight, I’ll have the self control and strength to refrain from hurting that man…and ultimately hurting myself and the people who love and support me.
I’ve come a long way…but its evident I still have a long way to go. I’ll continue to work hard as I try my best to always do the right thing.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
PS – Look! I got Yahoo to smile for the camera. 🙂
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!
PS – Yahoo has earned his yellow bandanna. Sweet! He is progressing beautifully! Now I gotta try to get him to smile for the camera 😉
I just came in with Yahoo. We worked on “Heel” and “Sit”. Then we ran 1 mile. Can you believe I’m in better shape than Yahoo? He get’s tired and slows down. So I speed up and say, “Come on Yahoo…lets go!!!” He tries to catch up but can’t…I’m just too gosh darn fast!
Every time we go through doors, I make him “sit.” Then “wait.” Then I say, “Heel” as I go through the door first. Yahoo follows close behind, then catches up to the “Heel” position. Then we stop, and I make him sit.
It’s awesome to watch this dog progress. Because when I first got him, he didn’t even know his name, much less all the things I’m teaching him now.
He also has learned to go into his crate. On command! I no longer have to guide him in.
The only real challenge at this point is to get him to sit consistently. He doesn’t like to sit. He’s 9 years old and has lumps all throughout his body. So I think sitting is uncomfortable for him. He never sits on his own. He either lays down, or remains standing.
Like right now, he’s calm and relaxed. But he remains standing. We’ve been here at the jpay kiosk for 15 min. Most dogs would’ve taken a seat by now. I could make him sit, but he’d get up the second I take my attention away.
Every Tuesday there is a Dog Program meeting. This is to assess the dogs and monitor progress. Right now Yahoo has a red bandana around his neck. All new dogs get red. The next step is yellow. Then green.
RED means no one can pet him except handlers.
YELLOW means others can pet him and approach him.
GREEN means I can take him with me outside the unit.
I can’t wait for Yahoo to earn his Green bandana. I love watching him progess and learn. This program is every bit as awesome as I knew it would be.
Until next time, love your pets and do something kind for an animal.