I’m happy to announce that we’re adopting another dog next month! Her name is Haley, and she’s a beautiful 2-3 year old yellow labrador retriever.
We’re getting Haley from the Harbor Association of Volunteers for Adoption (HAVA), an all volunteer rescue in Raymond, WA.
We aren’t getting Haley until the end of June because she’s currently part of the HAVA’s Freedom Tails program at Stafford Creek Correctional Center (SCCC) in Aberdeen.
Freedom Tails takes dogs that would most likely be euthanized in animal shelters and gives them “a second chance at life” by pairing them with offenders who improve the dogs’ chances of adoption by teaching them “socialization, house training, and much needed obedience skills.”
SCCC was the first male correctional facility in the state to have offenders train dogs. The Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor pioneered the first program, called the Prison Pet Partnership, in 1981.
Now offenders train dogs in all of Washington’s correctional facilities. Some offenders train shelter dogs to be service dogs. Others, like Freedom Tails, train the dogs so they will be adopted into forever homes.
I first learned about Freedom Tails when I visited SCCC in August of 2013 to spend a day watching the offenders with the dogs they were training. During my visit, I learned the program takes in dogs that “don’t have a chance” at getting adopted. The dogs in the Freedom Tails program typically have “kennel stress, no manners, and sometimes medical issues.”
Freedom Tails is designed to give the dogs structure in their lives, good grooming, house training, medical care, some socialization, and the ability to trust humans again.
Haley’s past is a bit murky. The Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) pulled her from a shelter (we don’t know which one or how she got there) to train her to sniff for drugs, but they took her out of the program because she wasn’t ball reactive enough. The DOC uses balls as a reward to train the dogs to find contraband. When they find the drugs, they get to play with their ball.
But if a dog like Haley doesn’t care that much about playing with balls, they aren’t likely to make it through the training.
The DOC turned Haley over to HAVA, which then put her in the Freedom Tails program. She apparently suffered from kennel stress at some point in her past because she had open sores on her front paws caused by excessive licking. Fortunately she is over that now and her paws have almost healed.
I’ll share more information about how we decided to adopt Haley, plan to get our home ready for her, learn how to integrate her into a household with 2 cats and another dog, and help her adapt t0 something she has never experienced before: a permanent home.