After more than 10 months of hard work, it was graduation day for two dogs and their inmate trainers at the Timpanogos Women’s Correctional Facility.
Sawsan Whitelaw and Haylee Cheek received certificates Wednesday as trainers in Canine Life and Social Skills (CLASS) for their work with the Canines With A Cause program at the prison.
It was a bittersweet moment, though, as the women had to say goodbye to the two dogs they and other inmates trained: Glory and Captain left for “finishing school” at a residential substance abuse treatment center. After four to six weeks there, they’ll be placed with veterans who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder — the ultimate goal of Canines With A Cause.
The nonprofit launched its rigorous training program at the prison last April.
Glory and Captain both achieved “bachelor degrees” in behavior during their time at Timp, learning things all the best companion dogs know.
But they weren’t the only ones transformed during the process, said Capt. Maryann Reding.
Whitelaw had never had a pet and was apprehensive during her first meeting with Glory last spring. She didn’t touch the dog even when Glory sat right in front of her, Reding said.
“It’s changed her tremendously,” Reding said. “She’s done an awesome job.”
Another dog who graduated from the program — Liberty — went home with veteran Caleb Dunham last Thanksgiving. Four other dogs in the prison’s first class— Valor, Jet, Sierra and Sergeant — did not graduate but received good training and were placed for adoption.
There are just two dogs at the facility currently, but others will arrive this week. Some will stay for a 12-week basic training program, while the best of the bunch will continue in the veterans program.
What a year it has been! Special thanks to everyone who made it possible.
Please take the time to enjoy an intimate portrait of our dogs, the inmates who train them and the former soldiers to whom they give much needed support.
Told through beautiful words, photos and videos, our story provides glimpses of redemption, aided by canines who once again earn the title "man's best friend."
With skilled and revealing reporting by Lois M. Collins and the artful photography and video work of Jeffrey D. Allred, we offer this important story.
Please follow this link or click on the link below to explore a multimedia telling of Life & Liberty:
Liberty moved out of the prison this month and now lives with her new family. To follow her story and other dog/veteran teams please LIKE our Facebook page.
Have a healthy and happy 2015.
Veterans Day is Tuesday, November 11th. This is an important day for showing appreciation to members of our military, past and present.
If you're looking for an appropriate way to honor a veteran, or would like to contribute in a way that's meaningful for veterans everywhere, here's a list of suggestions to start you off:
1) Attend a Veterans Day event in your area.
2) Show your patriotism, fly the flag.
3) Visit your local VA Hospital, assisted living or nursing home for veterans. Most of the veterans living at these facilities are lonely and love the company.
4) Talk to a veteran, ask them about their experiences. Some questions to get started are: What did you do in the military? How long did you serve? What was your favorite moment in all your time in the service? Did anyone else in your family serve? Why did you choose to go into the service branch you did?
5) If you see a veteran or active military in an airport, store, on the street, thank them for their service.
6) Donate, Canines With a Cause depends upon your support to help place and train shelter dogs with veterans suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
One of the veterans currently in our program will spend Veterans Day with his soon-to-be service dog and companion, Liberty. Liberty has been living and training in the Utah State Prison since March. She currently spends her weekends with Caleb so they can attend training class and get to know each other better. Liberty will be the first of many dogs trained in the prison, Canines With a Caue anticipates expanding this program early next year.
Thanks again, your ongoing support saves lives.
"I can’t imagine life without him.” – James talking about his dog JD
James is a great example of a Vet who came to Canines With a Cause (CWAC), needing training for a dog he already had. Many times we get calls from Vets asking if we can help train a dog they already have and love, to be their service dog. This is something that we can do, if their dog passes our assessment test. James’ dog, JD did just that and they began training with CWAC in our Pawsitive Partnerships program 10 months ago.
One day while James was working at his collision repair shop, a truck pulled in with a big, beautiful pit bull inside. The owners told James that they were on their way to take the dog to a shelter, because they could no longer keep him. James felt a connection with the dog and decided to rescue him. James had recently heard about CWAC and decided to give our program a try. He and JD began attending our weekly training classes.
“I’m a 100% disabled Vet diagnosed with PTSD. Having JD helps me get out and go into public places, exercise, and gives me peace of mind,” James told us. James and JD’s favorite activity is going trail running and hiking, which they do almost daily. James also told us that the training has not only helped JD become a great service dog, but that it’s also helped him in many ways. “It’s hard to put into words, but the training classes have helped me a lot too. I’m a lot more patient now,” James said.
James and JD just passed the BA test for the Canine Life and Social Skills program, which CWAC uses to train dogs. Passing the BA is a big deal, because this means that the dog and handler have mastered the basic fundamentals of manners. This is very important if you want to take your dog in public places and trust that they’ll behave. This pair will now move on to the masters program, which they’re very excited about.
CWAC is very proud of the hard work James and JD have put in with their training. These two are a wonderful example of what a Veteran and their dog can accomplish with our program.
Thank you for your support. Without donors like you, this "happy ever after" story would not be possible.
On April 8th Canines With a Cause began our Pawsitive Healing Prison Program!! It was emotional day, not a dry eye in the Utah State Prison. Six of our shelter dogs moved in with twelve female inmates, who train with the dogs all day every day. The women and prison guards trained with our staff before the dogs arrived and continue to work with them twice a week. This is great for the dogs because they get constant attention and the women are teaching them the skills they'll need to be an amazing service dog to a deserving veteran. One dog shares a cell with two women, although it's a tight squeeze everyone in the program is happy and thriving. We're so excited to finally be partnering with the female corrections facility at the Utah State Prison, it has been a long road. This program is so important because it saves three lives. The dogs are saved from being euthanized, the prisoners are saved by having a second chance to do something for the community and worthwhile with their lives, and our participating veterans are saved by the hope, love and comfort they receive and give to the dogs. As quoted by one of the offender trainers, "Having him here (Captain) with us every day, it gives us a reason to wake up every morning. It lets us know we're not total failures. It lets us know we can heal."
Meet some of the Pawsitive Healing Dogs:
Star is a one year old Dachshund, she came to Salt Lake Animal Services as a stray. According to her roommates and trainers Ali and Val, she loves sleeping in the grass and chasing ducks. She is very smart and serious about her training. According to Ali, "She loves being around people but ignores the other inmates when she gets focused on a task."
Glory had a rough time before coming into the CWAC program. She was thrown from a car during an accident and hit by another car. Luckily, her tail was the only thing injured, which now has a funny stub. According to her trainers and roommates Sawson and Brandilee, she is a "prissy-missy" obsessed with B-A-L-L's, she can destroy a tennis ball in less than 5 minutes. They train her using praise and love, "she's all that, and knows it," they told us.
CWAC came across a friendly little dog resembling a mop at the West Valley City Shelter. This scruffy little dog is now the famous Jet. He's known for his multicolored mohawk which his trainers Reggie and Cassandra accomplished using Kool-Aid. Jet was a little shy when he first arrived at the prison but according to his trainers he's come out of his shell and is brave boy now. He loves people, food and toys!
Liberty-Liberty is a 4 year old Australian Cattle Dog/Basset Hound mix (best guess). She was a stray we rescued from Salt Lake County Animal Service and is training for a special veteran who is very fond of her. Liberty is living and training with Kerri and Bobbi, they say she is a bit stubborn but is very smart and learns quickly. They both feel they won the lottery when they got Liberty.
Please help us save three lives. GlobalGiving’s second Bonus Day of the year is Wednesday, May 7th. Starting at 9:00 am EDT, they’re offering a 30% match on donations up to $1,000 made to projects on GlobalGiving.org. There are $75,000 available in matching, and they’re offering a $1,000 bonus award for the most money raised and $1,000 bonus award for the most individual donors on that day. This is a great way for you to give more to help our veterans and the dogs that give them unconditional love.
Thank you for making these "happy" stories possible. We couldn't do the important work we do without you. Please take the time to read more about this amazing program through the attached news articles.
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