Tuesday, March 8, 2011 • One-hundredth dog adopted from Pups on Parole program

Publisher’s note: This story is reprinted from the Tuesday, March 8, 2011, edition of the Lassen County Times.

Thanks to Pups on Parole, Ned, formerly known as Yogi, got a second chance at life and is now living with the Clowers family in Reno, Nevada.

Ned, a German-wire haired pointer and chocolate Labrador retriever cross, was the 100th dog to be adopted out of the Pups on Parole program in Lassen County.

While in the program, Ned received basic training and socialization by an inmate firefighter at the California Correctional Center/High Desert State Prison Fire Department. His new family found him on Petfinder.com.

After finding Ned on the Internet, Mike Clowers spoke with Lassen County Humane Society President Mary Morphis and arranged to meet the trainer and the dog.

Clowers, his wife Colleen and sons Ben and Luke drove from Reno over Labor Day weekend to meet their prospective pet. Upon meeting the dog, Clowers said it seemed to be the perfect fit.

“When we arrived and they brought the dog to us, the trainer let the dog off the leash and the dog ran right up to our youngest son and planted a big kiss across his face and we knew it was all done. That was it,” Clowers said.

Ned spent his first weekend with his new family at Eagle Lake. Being a rescue dog and just under a year old, Clowers said Ned hasn’t had a lot of life experiences.

When they took Ned down to the water, Clowers said there was a chop on the lake and waves coming to shore.

“You could tell (Ned) had never seen anything like that before,” Clowers said.

Ned was standing where the water washes up on shore, but jumped back when the water washed up around his front paws.

After the water moved out, Ned started walking around sniffing the ground when Clowers said the next wave hit him in the head.

Ned started wagging his tail trying to bite at the waves before completely jumping into the lake biting at the water.

While in the water, Ned stepped on something else of interest — rocks. Clowers said he dipped his head into the water as if he were sniffing the rock and plunged his head back in to grab a rock and bring it back to shore.

The Clowers were looking for a new dog because they lost their former pet, and Clowers said it has really helped to have a dog back in the house.

By being in the Pups on Parole program, Clowers said Ned is completely trained, obeys commands, sits, heels and is perfect on a leash so Clowers is able to take him jogging

Ned is also house trained and Clowers said there hasn’t been a single accident in the house.

Clowers attributes some of the dog’s obedience to Ned himself.

“He seems to be an exceptional dog,” Clowers said.

Many dogs in the program are strays or have been surrendered to the Lassen County Animal Shelter and have been subject to abuse, neglect or little socialization with people leaving them scared, untrusting and shy.

For the Clowers and Ned, his history wasn’t an issue.

Clowers said, “Once we met the dog, his history at that point, was mute. He slipped right into my family like he had been with us since he was a puppy.”

 “He’s comfortable with us and we’re comfortable with him,” he said.

Pups on Parole at the prison
The Pups on Parole program is a cooperative effort between the Lassen Humane Society, California Correctional Center and the Lassen County Animal Shelter, which provides the dogs for the program.

“Pups on Parole is a great program,” said Garth Renaud hazardous material specialist at the fire department. “It’s worked out real well for the Humane Society and the dogs and it’s worked out well for the fellas here.”

Many inmates at the prison want to be out at the firehouse, and Pups on Parole is one of the reasons, Renaud said.

Renaud said when dogs are picked up from the shelter they undergo a temperament test and are not selected if they show any signs of aggression.

When dogs are moved to the fire department, they are assigned to two inmate firefighters — a primary and secondary handler. Some inmates prefer to train the dogs on their own, Renaud said.

Trainers teach the dogs basic commands such as sit, come, stay, down, wait, but  Renaud said some inmates take the dogs to a higher level of training.

There can be up to seven dogs in the program and 17 firefighters in the department who Renaud said all get involved with the animals.

 In addition to the firefighters, there are eight staff members and other people coming in and out of the facility all day and Renaud said the dogs have but no choice getting used to being around people.

Dogs stay with their handlers and crates are placed underneath the inmates’ lockers for the dogs to sleep in, but Renaud said some of the dogs sleep on the bed with their trainer.

Renaud said the only problem with the sleeping arrangement is if a owner prefers a dog not sleep on the bed with them.

For many it might be easy to break them of the habit as Renaud said, “The dogs are adaptable.”

If a dog is still skittish, they might be placed in an outdoor kennel while the inmates do their chores at the firehouse or if the crew is called out on an emergency.

Not only do the dogs learn basic commands and how to trust someone, the animals also have a positive effect at the fire department.

Renaud said the dogs have changed the atmosphere by helping keep things calmer overall and giving inmates someone else to focus on, something that they are responsible for.

He also said the dogs give unconditional love no matter what the setting is.

As the dogs go through the program and are eventually selected for a new home, Renaud said letting them go can be tough, especially for the first-time trainers.

“I’ve seen some pretty big guys get choked up,” Renaud said.

Renaud said he reminds them of their ultimate goal, which is making the dog adoptable and that they are helping save a dogs life.

Dogs have gone to new homes all over California, Nevada and as far as Washington state.

When a dog is adopted, their picture is taken with the trainer and it is put on the Wall of Fame. As the wall fills up, photos are taken down and placed in a binder.

Some families send updates and photos via e-mails and letters. Renaud said its fun for the inmates to see past dogs. Any updated information is saved and added to the binder, too.

Trainers also get a copy of the photo, which Renaud said gives them sense of pride. Many send the photos home to their families.

All the dogs in the Pups on Parole Program have current vaccinations, are spayed or neutered and micro-chipped.

Morphis also said, “We’re just thrilled with the way the program’s going. The people adopters are just loving their animals and they’re thrilled with the program. It’s a good start we’re giving these dog that are entering into a new family.”