A couple of years ago I spent a day at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen to observe offenders in its Freedom Tails program train troubled dogs how to be obedient pets that can be adopted.
Since the program began in 2009 it has helped 240 dogs find forever homes.
As I wrote in January, all of Washington’s prisons have dog training and adoption programs, and after observing Freedom Trail’s at Stafford Creek, I’m a huge fan of these programs that have saved thousands of dogs facing euthanization and gives them the training they desperately need to find forever homes.
They also teach offenders responsibility, give them a marketable skill and provide an incentive to maintain positive behavior while incarcerated.
For the last couple of months I’ve been following the amazing progress of a dog in another offender dog training program.
The Ridge Dogs program at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, WA is the last chance for dogs facing euthanization in the tri-cities area. The program takes dogs from Adams County Pet Rescue, and Benton Franklin Humane Society,
Upon completing the program these dogs will be able to consistently sit, stay, lie down, come when called, walk on a loose leash and heel all on request. In addition, many will earn their AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate and all will have a knowledge of clicker training.
The dog I’ve been watching in the Ridge Dogs program is Ryder. He was found in early January by the side of a road dehydrated, petrified, and as his handler described” completely catatonic.”
My words can’t do justice to Ryder’s transformation since he arrived at Coyote Ridge, so I’ll let the videos and text from the Ridge Dog’s Facebook page tell his story:
January 8, 2015
“This sweet boy came to the prison today and I must say, he was one of the saddest dogsI’ve ever seen. He was in his crate scared to death, his head down and drooling and he had pooped all over the crate and at one point put his head down in it. We brought the handlers out to get him and they carried him inside the crate into the facility so they could get him all cleaned up. During his bath he just wanted to lay down but began to perk up a small bit while being washed with warm water and hearing the handlers comforting him. After his bath they took him into the room and showed him his bed which he immediately laid down on still looking sad so the handler laid down with him still comforting him. While we were having a meeting outside the room, we noticed that he got off his bed and began to explore his new home and found the treats in the handlers coat pocket we think this guy is going to be just fine once he’s comfortable and feels safe – he couldn’t be in a better place for all the love and attention he could ever want!!”
January 12, 2015
“RYDER UPDATE!! I went down to camp today to check on Ryder and see how he was holding up…wow!! He’s still pretty sore and it shows but he’s doing AMAZING!
February 14, 2015
“Ryder is a very special dog that we would like to place with someone in need of a therapy or service dog.
Some of Ryder’s attributes: Ryder has been in hospital settings and is good with noise coming from machines like oxygen pumps.
He’s able to negotiate around wheelchairs and will sit calmly while his person is busy.
Ryder is learning to potty on command so he may enter medical facilities and not have an accident. He is learning to turn light switches off and on. He’s working on picking up things like keys. Ryder is a work in progress but has that rare personality that will make him excel in the service world.
He’s young and may go through some teenage angst but this young dog has what it takes to bring help and joy to people in need.”
April 2, 2015
“Ridge Dogs had a big day today. If you remember Ryder, the dog who came to us after being found on the road possibly hit by a car and left to die. When we got him, he truly looked like that’s just what he wanted to do and some didn’t know if he would make it through the weekend…. After a few weeks the handlers knew this was a special boy and he needed a special person. Jennifer and her family came from Seattle today to meet him and see what the handlers have been training him to do to fit her needs – it was amazing!! Find the cell phone and take it to her lap, loading up into the van, staying when told and so many things!! He will stay here a couple more weeks and will be ready to go home with her. The handlers have done an amazing job!!”
Ryder’s transformation left me speechless. I read lots of awful stories every day about people who do terrible, unspeakable things to dogs, but stories like this help restore my faith in humanity.
To learn more about Ridge Dogs, contact Jennifer Lynch at 509-544-3530 or Denise Cook at 509-544-3511.