Taking breaks from chasing the reflection from shiny objects on the ground and from receiving near constant petting from handlers and visitors, the seven dogs on the Pups on Parole Program at the California Correctional Center were showing off their skills during the Friday, July 28 10th anniversary celebration of the program.
Pups on Parole, which is run by the Lassen Humane Society and the California Correctional Center, partners dogs from the Lassen County Animal Shelter with the firefighting inmates at the California Correctional Center. Seven dogs are allowed in the program at a time, and they use their days in the program to brush up on their socializing skills and training. So far, 478 pups have found their forever home to date; however, the program is not intended to benefit only the cuddly canines.
“I love this program,” said CCC inmate Randy Elson. “In my opinion, this is one of the most rehabilitative programs CDCR has to offer.”
When not fighting fires in the area, Elson spends his time working with Ruby, a 2- year-old pup that’s “come a long way,” he said. “Every time I come back, no matter how long I’ve been gone, she’s always happy to see me,” said Elson.
Firefighting inmate Zack Gleason also loves his time working with the Pup on Parole program.
Currently, Gleason handles yellow lab/ husky mix Duke, who has a knack for the brand new agility course, donated by Billington Ace Hardware, Tractor Supply and Payless Building Supply.
“He’s a goofball, but he’s really smart,” said Gleason. “It’s been really fun, we’ve made a good bond, and he just loves people.”
Gleason took Duke on a test run for the Pups on Parole anniversary attendees, and while the friendly canine was a little distracted by all the friendly faces, he showed great skills jumping through the hoops and listening to his handler.
Inmate handler Gabriel Martinez also spoke favorably of the program.
“I love it, we all love it here being handlers. It gives us a great sense of responsibility,” Martinez said. “When we see them go it’s a little bittersweet, but that’s what this program is about — getting these dogs better homes.”
In addition to spending time as a firefighter and dog handler to June, Martinez used his skills in wood burning to create the winning barn art medallion for the Lassen County Art Council’s fair contest.
Spending about 18-22 hours, Martinez cut about and designed the Pups on Parole medallion, earning the program the blue ribbon.
Over the past 10 years, the program has grown into what it is today.
“For me, it’s seeing a dog that’s been running the streets, or in a bad situation coming to the program (and changing) in two days. These handlers completely change the dog’s personality,” said Pups on Parole Coordinator Vicky Reinsel.
The CCC Pups on Parole Liaison, Rikki Meier, has also helped the program grow. She has assisted in bringing in dog trainers to help the handlers learn how to best interact with and train with the pups to get the ready to be adopted.
“I’ve definitely see a big difference,” said Meier after the training.
Additionally, hoping to lure in more participants to the program, she said the group could start getting rehabilitation credit.
Celebrating 10 years of the program, handlers and those involved with the program enjoyed cake and ice cream and enjoyed the company of the seven pups currently looking and waiting for the perfect family.
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