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Blog » Crying in Prison

Toni D
Today was the 2-year anniversary of our foster/obedience program at Benner Prison, here in Centre County. I'll be honest, I didn't want to go, but because the program is so small, I felt I needed to be there to represent our organization. I'm so glad I did go because this was one of the most touching ceremonies I have ever attended. I knew that the inmate-handlers were happy to be involved in the program--after all, they get all kinds of special privileges if they have a dog in their cell. But what I found out today was that it really isn't about them. Every one of the 8 handlers spoke today and there wasn't a dry eye in the place. I wish you could have heard it--they talked about finding a purpose where there had been none; they talked about how this program has turned them around, teaching them to be compassionate and patient, and to work with others that they may not want to work with. They talked about how they had never felt these kinds of emotions and how much they appreciated the new skills they are learning. One said that in prison, you have no identity and yet he felt like somebody because he was giving back in a tiny way to society. I hadn't thought of it like that before and it hit me hard. They talked about how they felt special to have been chosen. As I watched, I felt that in our world, it's such a small thing and yet in theirs, it is everything. In all the times I've gone out there to interact with the inmates and dogs, I have never felt uncomfortable; they have always been respectful to me and kind, and their love of the dogs is obvious. The guards and administrators talked today about how the demeanor of the block had changed; how the dogs bring smiles to the faces of everyone. Today was hard to watch but I felt proud, happy, and excited to have touched these guys in a way that no other program can do. It's all about the dogs and everyone in that room today felt it. Thanks are in order to not only the prison administration and the inmate-handlers, but also to Pam Graci, who volunteers her time every week to train the guys and dogs. She is the glue that holds this all together. Her facebook page is A Dog's Tale from Jail, check it out for updates on our furkids in prison!- Toni

Crying in Prison

August 18, 2016 at 6:56pm ·  Share

Dina S
I'm so glad you participate in this program.
August 18, 2016 at 9:06pm
Ginny L
Wow! How powerful! To know that this program not only changes the dogs but their inmate handlers is such a wonderful outcome...I love that Nittany does this...not only for the dogs but for these souls who have never known what it feels like to give of themselves and experience the unconditional love of a dog.
August 18, 2016 at 9:43pm
Pam G
Thank you, Toni for such a beautiful, thoughtful write up of the program. I am so glad you decided to come and see the impact your generosity of sharing your dogs with us has had on everyone involved. Some things you did not see or hear are, these dogs also get to visit outside their unit...special needs inmates, medical etc. One man, in a wheelchair, hadn't seen a dog in over 40 years and broke out in tears when he was allowed to interact with one of the dogs. It is things like this that keep me going back day after day. We are changing lives...dogs and inmates ... it doesn't get any more rewarding than that! Thank you Toni...truly...for all you do for us.
August 19, 2016 at 9:23am

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