“A dog is man’s best friend” is true whether that man is behind bars or on the front lines. Puppies Behind Bars bridges the gap between such men and women.
Society’s views of prisoners and veterans are usually on opposite ends of the spectrum. People often view prisoners as those who take from our community and veterans who are willing to give it all. Takers and givers is what we see. Puppies, however, just see someone who will take them for a walk and another who will give them a belly rub. Puppies see friends, playmates, and someone to love.
Puppies Behind Bars was founded in 1997, following the footsteps of a guide dog/prison program created by veterinarian Dr. Thomas Lane in Gainesville, Florida. Seeing the brilliance of the idea, Gloria Gilbert Stoga brought the idea to her home state of New York. Her mission began with two puppies at a maximum-security prison for women. The women were no longer just prisoners, they were now caretakers and trainers. Over the course of one year, the women taught these puppies, and five more that were quickly added to the program, basic obedience and socializing skills to prepare them for formal training at a guide dog school.
This mission successfully grew over the next few years but nobody expected what it would ultimately become, because nobody expected a terrorist attack. Being based in New York with a front row seat to the 9/11 attacks, the board of Puppies Behind Bars were inspired to redefine their mission. Instead of just prepping puppies for formal training, they would take responsibility for the full training of puppies to become Explosive Detection Canines (EDC’s) to serve the first responders who so bravely served them during the attacks. This would, of course, mean more responsibility and more training for the inmates who would make this all possible. The men and women behind bars didn’t hesitate to step up to the new challenge.
As soldiers returned home from fighting overseas, yet another need came to the attention of Puppies Behind Bars. Many of our soldiers came home broken and bruised, both physically and mentally. Already seeing the positive emotional impact the puppies have on the broken and bruised inmates, Puppies Behind Bars made what seemed to them as the next obvious step for their program: serve our soldiers as they have served us. Again, the inmates and puppies stepped up.
Puppies Behind Bars shows there is no limitation to the number of heroes in a story. From the founder, to the inmates, to the law enforcement, to the veterans and to what brings them all together: the puppies. With their innocent love, the puppies are the givers that make it all possible, touching hearts in ways they can’t understand and in ways we can’t express without shedding tears. These puppies give purpose to prisoners, protection to police officers, comfort for veterans and hope for them all.
LoveAbility hopes to support Puppies Behind Bars’ mission. In the coming months, we intend to make a large contribution to this program that has already contributed so much to our communities. Remember, we give 50% of our profits to charities just like this one. Please help spread the word of LoveAbility’s mission to help you Find Love and to Give Love to Puppies Behind Bars.
*all images from puppiesbehindbars.com