(Reprinted with permission.)
RESCUED is proving to be a more effective and unique approach to achieve the successful rehabilitation of detainees and their four legged friends.
It’s a new day at the Colwell Probation Detention Center. 12 detainees, including two named Mosley and Gentry wake up in their dorms. They put their feet on the floor and then; they do something unexpected, something beautiful and ingenious that has the potential to revolutionize incarceration in the United States. They lovingly smile and say, “good morning” to their dogs. For nearly two years, the Colwell Probation Detention Center in Blairsville, GA has teamed up with the expert dog trainers of Cold Nose College and Carol Shannon, owner of Two Paws Up Mobile Grooming to create the RESCUED program.
Fully Funded by Tri State Pet Rescue, RESCUED is a 10-week program that matches a detainee with a dog in need of care and patient training. With the expectation of preparing a shelter dog to be with a permanent family and detainees for success in society and the workforce, RESCUED is proving to be a more effective and unique approach to achieve the successful rehabilitation of detainees and their four legged friends
In July of 2012, RESCUED officially became the first dog rescue program within the Georgia Department of Corrections.
The brain child of Jan Eaton of Tri State Pet Rescue and Diane Hassett, Superintendent of Colwell Probation Detention Center, RESCUED has taught the detainees, “viable job skills that will enable them to gain employment upon re-entry into their communities thus giving them a chance of being ‘rescued’ from the revolving door of incarceration,” says Hassett. While the detainees are given companionship, they are also taught useful skills and given the privilege of on the job training which is expected to help solidify their foundation as productive citizens. The detainees are selected to participate in the program after an extensive application process which includes an essay, a thorough background check of their criminal histories and an assessment of their institutional behavior. When the detainee has smoothly and successfully completed the first part of the process, he is interviewed by a panel. “Those that interview are introduced to a dog to see how they interact with the animal,” continues Hassett. “After this, the board makes a decision of who will fill the vacant handler positions based on all the information available.” Detainees who are welcomed into the program can expect the next 10 weeks to include basic computer and resume building instruction, a variety of instructional presentations and on the job training in dog obedience and grooming.
With over 30 years of grooming experience, Carol Shannon of Two Paws Up in Blue Ridge, GA is the driving force behind the certificate the detainees earn in dog grooming from Central Georgia Technical College. She teaches the inmates basic grooming skills such as, bathing, blow drying, brushing, conditioning and haircutting. Detainees also learn to pluck and clean ears, care for eyes and trim nails. Carol is more than happy to help with the RESCUED program. “It would be an honor,” she said when asked to volunteer. Fortunately, Carol is not alone in her generosity; more experts have willingly offered their knowledge to ensure the prosperity of RESCUED.
Based in Murphy, North Carolina, Cold Nose College plays a vital role in the success of RESCUED. As the owners of Cold Nose College, Brad and Lisa Waggoner along with experienced trainer, Tiffany Lovell teach inmates modern, positive reinforcement training as well as pet first aid and CPR. The detainees are educated in the use of ‘clicker training’ which is an extremely effective way to train dogs. “With clicker training, the dog learns that the sound of the ‘click’ is what tells them they got it right, and reinforcement for the successful exercise brings them a yummy piece of food,” explains Brad Waggoner. Cold Nose College uses a variety of methods to educate the detainees, such as demonstrations, lectures, videos and hands on coaching. “The men learn they can change another’s behavior without the use of force or intimidation,” says Waggoner. These experiences prepare dogs for adoption and provide the detainees with essential social skills and good work habits.
The RESCUED program believes that character building goals must be accompanied by practical skills to increase the chances of success in society and in a work environment. Of the 23 detainees who have completed the program and been released from the Colwell Probation Detention Center, two have continued their work in animal care. “To date of the 23 released, we have one who is working full time teaching good manners training at a very reputable business and we have another employed with a veterinary clinic,” says Superintendent Hassett. The Colwell Probation Detention Center prides itself in the reinforcement of respect, self-control and discipline in all detainees. But, as Hassett explains, “a fourth has been added to those participating in the program, integrity, always doing what is right even when no one else is looking.” Integrity is of great importance to any employer who is in need of good, trustworthy employees. While character building is an important goal of RESCUED, the detainees learn many other useful skills that may improve their chances of success upon reentry into the workforce. Kathy Rich and Linda Garver of North Georgia Technical College teach participating detainees basic computer and resume building skills, Scott Nanney of United Community Bank presents, “How to Start a Small Business” and Counselor Ellen Kennedy shares her course, “Motivation for Change.” Detainees are also awarded On the Job Training Certificates in Grooming by Middle Georgia Technical College. When strong character is matched with practical skill, detainees are better equipped to rejoin and excel in the workforce.
Having graduated from the program on February 18, 2014, detainees Mosley and Gentry consider RESCUED a gift. “Fortunately for me and Mosley, we were accepted into the program, and we are very grateful,” says Gentry. After completion of the program Mosley’s dog, Precious and Gentry’s dog, Rex have continued their search for permanent homes. This can be challenging for the detainees, but Mosley explains, “I’m happy to give someone else the chance to have a loving dog.” The detainees and the dogs exchange invaluable gifts. As the newly trained dogs move on to loving homes, the detainees reflect on the importance of patience and companionship. “I learned a lot about building patience up,” says Gentry. “If I get discouraged, I have to persevere with it. If I keep on trying, I know I can succeed.” Following his release, Gentry plans to apply at a doggie day care that is near his parents’ house. Mosley plans to use his new training skills on his own dogs; his work skills will be used to expand his remodeling business. With so many shelter dogs in need of patient training and so many detainees in need of rehabilitation, it seems RESCUED has made a perfect match. In the words of Gentry, “It’s a second chance,” not only for the detainees, but for the shelter dogs they have loved so much.
For information on adopting a dog from the RESCUED program please contact any one of these wonderful organizations
Tri State Pet Rescue
P.O. Box 419
Blue Ridge, GA 30513
Gilmer County Animal Shelter
4152 Highway 52 East
Ellijay, GA 30540 706. 635. 2166
Open to the public:
Tuesday – Friday 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Saturday 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Closed Sunday, Monday, and all holidays.
Cold Nose College
Training Center Address
5718 High-way 64 West, Suite 10
Murphy, NC 28906
Two Paws Up Mobile Pet Salon
Serving Fannin, Gilmer and Union Counties, Georgia
Rachel Buckley is a freelance writer based in Decatur, GA. She may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org