Inmates Given 'Death Row Dogs' for 14 Weeks. Result is Unconditional Love


It is a universally known fact that, if we let them, dogs make us better people. Kids who grow up with a dog of their own get to experience this unique bond from the start, and it becomes a lifelong pursuit.

No matter what age you are, dogs can teach you so many things. Patience, responsibility, and how to live in the moment are just a few of the many lessons you can learn from a four-legged friend.

It is a sad reality that there are just too many dogs out there. All those potential teachers looking for a human to love, shuffled away in small kennels as a result of accidents or overpopulation, just waiting their time out.

But some industrious individuals have been finding a way to combat that. They’re joining forgotten dogs with forgotten people, and the result is more than mere rehabilitation.

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Pawsitive Change is a group dedicated to bettering the lives of homeless dogs and inmates. They’re taking the natural, positive traits of dogkind and using them to draw out the best in former criminals.

Their Facebook page states, “Pawsitive Change is a progressive and intensive rehabilitation program which matches death row dogs with inmates inside California State Prisons. Our goal is to reduce inmate recidivism by providing them a viable skill, while at the same time saving dogs(‘) lives.”

The end goals are multiple. One goal is to foster the dogs and change them into well-adjusted, well-behaved pups who can then go on to find families and stay out of the shelter.

Another goal is to give the inmates some real-world skills and provide them with the unconditional love and lessons that only dog owners know.

The way they get there is practical. Qualifying inmates will be partnered up with a “death row” dog, and together the two will go through a 14-week training program offered by experienced trainers.

The first half is dedicated to helping inmates learn about dog psychology and rehabilitation, and the second half is hands-on training work with their respective dogs.

By the end of that session, the hope is that the dogs will be able to get their Canine Good Citizen certification and find new forever homes. So far, every single dog that has gone through the program has been awarded its CGC title.

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Ultimately, though, the impact this program has on the people involved is ground-breaking. One inmate flat-out admitted that it has helped him become a better person.

“By having another life that depends on me I am becoming more responsible,” he said. “By being relied upon I am becoming more accountable.”

“Learning a new skillset make me more knowledgeable and knowing that while I’m learning, I’m also saving and improving the lives of the animals I’m working with, is helping me to become more compassionate and a better human being,” he continued.

Another inmate also praised the program and its capacity to bring wholeness back into their lives.

“We live inside a place where we can’t show our emotion–it’s considered a weakness,” he said. “But with this program, we can feel–give and receive affection.”

“We become cold in here, much more cold (than) when we entered. But these dogs give us a chance to be human.”

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