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Letters for Inmate Trainers

My Greyhound Inmate Experience

by Robert

It was like a dark shadow was lifted off of me the day I saw my first dog, Calvin. I could only imagine where he’d been, the hard life he had before he got here as a racer. On the other hand, I could relate to him being confined in a cage and knowing the damage it does on your soul and temperament. I felt an instant bond with him. I walked up to him and patted his side softly as if to just say “I understand Buddy, it’s alright now.”

Calvin  a greyhound Robert trained.I got pretty close to Cal and loved each day as we bonded and trained each other. He taught me to love and care again, to feel responsibility, and a feeling of pride whenever he learned a new trick and done well. I taught him to sit, shake, lay down, to heel, and that it’s alright to trust us humans…we all aren't so bad. He always had this look in his eyes that always let me know he appreciated me and those of us around him training other dogs.

I’m training my 3rd dog now and I found….each one has a piece of Calvin in them. They all want to be loved, they all want to play and be happy, and are eager to please…they all just want a home.  

My Greyhound Inmate Experience

Carl

It was in 2007, while working as a tutor in the Food Technology Program, that I made the decision that working with dogs was a good way to make use of the time that I was doing. At that time I worked primarily with trouble youth and found the work both challenging and rewarding. After all there is something to be said for mentoring and being a positive role model for young men who often times had no male role models in their lives. So while working with dogs was a decision. I came to; I never in my wildest dreams expected it to come close, in terms of being a rewarding experience, to working with those young men. I was so wrong!

Jessie a greyhound Carl is trainingI came to this vocation (because that is what I consider this to have become… a vocation) expecting to help make a change in a dog's life. To help socialize and train an animal that up until then had received very little attention outside of that needed for racing. What I did not foresee was being changed by the experience. For example, being awakened in the cold wee hours of the morning, by a gentle nudge or the jangle of the dog collar; to take Jessie outside to relieve herself. Or the gentle way she eats her kibble from my hand and gaily frolics with the other greys" in the pen. These are but a few of the many ways that this "grey" has pawed her way into my heart. This experience/privilege has far outweighed anything that I derived from working with the aforementioned young people. Trust is a rare commodity in prison; yet it has been given to we few who are fortunate enough to be a part of this T.G.I.E. experience. Moreover, it is the trust that Jessie has bestowed in me that makes the job worthwhile. Jessie came into our lives a skulking and fearful creature with her head held low and her tail between her legs. Today she literally prances around the facility with head held high and tail wagging. Seeing the change and playing some small part in it, is truly gratifying. Coupled with the infectious love and enthusiasm of Gaye Ann and Ron one can't help but arise each day looking forward to working and playing with the amazing dogs.

C2 Team Six -Carl  more letters

My Greyhound Inmate Experience

Kevin

graphic of a letter from Kevin

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My Greyhound Inmate Experience

Chris

Photo of sweety a white and brindle greyhound.As a member of the Lakeland Correctional Facilities Greyhound program I am moved to write a few words about this program and what it means to me.

Growing up inside prison since the age of 16 I have not had many opportunities to do anything that really mattered. Being one of twenty men selected out of a possible 1,400 restored my faith that staying out of trouble and keeping my nose clean does lead to greater things in life. In the age of instant gratification sometimes a man can lose himself or continue being lost in a world surrounded by crime and criminals.

I was so excited to be chosen; I immediately called home to share the good news with my parents. In a life filled with my poor decisions it was great to share news of a positive nature.

Picking up my very first dog, “Sweetie” was the happiest day that I could remember in a very long time. I had read so many books preparing to give the best care that my limited experience could muster. Honestly I knew none of us had much skill training dogs— let alone Racetrack athletes— but you could see the care each and every man showed for the animals and the gratitude in them for the opportunity to love something. It was quite comical watching grown men; supposed, ‘hardened criminals’, baby talking dogs.

  I had no idea the responsibility that came with caring for another living being. Before long I noticed that I was waking and taking Sweetie out for her morning bathroom break and giving her fresh water before I had even brushed my own teeth! I was taking care of her needs before my very own! I even cut the sleeve off of my thermal during the winter months to keep her ears and head warm. The feelings in my heart of helplessness and loneliness were slowly being replaced with those of responsibility and love. Another oddity happened as well. In this environment of ‘every man for his self’ men were working together, exchanging training information they had read or were practicing in an attempt to help in any way they could. In my lengthy incarceration I had never seen this type of camaraderie by men not engaged in a sporting event! Men from all different walks of life working together for the common goal of training and socializing retired Greyhounds for hopeful adoption.

This experience, while very trying at times, had been the most fulfilling experience of my life. Watching a “sweetie” come in and could not even walk on a linoleum floor or navigate a set of stairs. She had no idea what ‘sit’ or ‘down’ meant but ten short weeks later through diligent work she transformed into a doggie Lassie would be envious of. Hard work is rewarding, and watching as dog after dog performed their new skills at Graduation filled everyone involved with a sense of pride and self worth. These feelings reinforced by the programs founders; a job well done!

As we train these beautiful Greyhounds for another life away from the abuses of their prior life, we ourselves learn that with love anything is possible— love and a little HARD WORK!

Chris. more letters

A Letter written by Kiowa about their experience

Written by Kiowa's handlers Kevin & Jim

Photo Kiowa a White and Fawn colored GreyhoundOFFICIAL JOURNAL ENTRY OF KIOWA WW PIERCE
My name is Kiowa, pronounced like "Iowa" with a "K." I am an exceptionally good-looking white and brindle greyhound, with a regal mile-eating gait and a keen eye. I come from a long line of champion racers, and have several cousins sniffing around here with me.

Here? Currently I'm stationed in Coldwater, Michigan, and before I can be adopted, I have been assigned to help a couple troubled prisoners find their path to rehabilitation. It is an onerous task, I know, but I have been blessed with strong (and, did I mention, fast?) shoulders and lots of patience. If I can tough out the cheering of adoring fans at the track, I suppose I can endure ten weeks of Jim and Kevin brushing my teeth, clipping my nails, and giving me baths and daily massages. They aren't such bad guys after all.

On February 24, the day I arrived here in Coldwater, one of my charges, Kevin, learned that his father had passed away from cancer later that afternoon. From what I understand, this is one of the hardest experiences a prisoner can go through. Kevin and I spent some hours on my bed that day and that week, and had some long conversations, but as part of my Greyhound Code of Honor, I cannot disclose what we talked about. I'd like to think that this strengthened our bond rather quickly, and that my friendship comforted him through this tough time.

You may not know this, but greyhounds (a noble breed, if you as~ me), are famous for our friendship. We are very loyal, affectionate, and we make excellent companions and confidants. It was only natural that I befriended Kevin and gave him an ear to bend.

Jim is a different story, but I've been noticing him coming out of his shell, too. With nearly 50 years of prison between these two guys, they are not the easiest nuts to crack, but as I mentioned, I am patient. I try to start Jim's day by letting him give me a full body rub down early in the morning, something I think is very therapeutic for him. Then we usually go out for some training time, during which he pays me kibbles to show him how to communicate with me.

But, hey, I'm easy to talk to. I sit/stay, down/stay, relax/stay, stand/stay. come, heel, finish, front, swing, play dead, and put my paws on a bench and bow my head for prayers. Jim and Kevin seem to think this is fantastic. as if I'm praying for world peace. Mostly I'm just praying for a sausages in my dinner bowl. Kibbles will suffice, though, and sometimes I cheat to get them more quickly. When staying, I sometimes creep forward if they are not looking; that way I can get to the kibbles sooner. When they turn around, I pretend to be stretching and yawning, and it works every time. Jim and Kevin are nice, but probably not the brightest guys around •••

So I'll continue to work with them for a few more weeks. I'll coach them along as I watch their hearts soften and they learn just how cool of a greyhound I am. While they are working together, and learning to cooperate productively with 38 other men, I'll try to put some finishing touches on them, but there may be a few leftover rough spots for one of my cousins to touch up next session.

I'll miss them when I go, but then, I'll have an adoptive family to train. Giving them all my love and attention will take all my time. In the spirit of friendship for my new family, I will admit that I have had to make a few adjustments to make the move from professional life at the track to the domesticated life of training "dog handlers." It may surprise you that the racing life is not ail it is cracked up to be, and after working with Jim and Kevin. I know that I was born for the domestic life. I can't wait to meet my new family.
I am Kiowa WW Pierce and I approved this message.  more letters

My Greyhound Inmate Experience

Frank D.,III

Being a part of T.G.I.E. is truly a blessing. I am so happy and at the same time honored to say that I am a member of such a great team of people doing work for such a great cause for a wonderful, beautiful breed of Dog.

This program is not a job; this is a wonderful journey we are all on as one for the better of the Greyhound's. Knowing I'm helping a Grey find his way and give him love and structure and returning them to puppy mode as I call it means so much to me. It brings a great big smile to my face when our team leader Gaye Ann Weaver tells us that Grey's have been adopted, I'm always glad to hear about the dog's I personally trained but at the same time just as glad to hear great news about all OUR dog's, we are a TEAM and these are all OUR Grey's. I truly enjoy being involved in such a great team effort being here where I am, when it comes to the program and dealing with my supervisor’s they all make me feel human again, I am talked to with respect. I can feel the sincerity from all my supervisor's and know they actually appreciate my hard work and dedication; they make me feel more of a Man than just another inmate or another number. I see this program changing something inside me and a lot of the other members making us more of a Man. I see us being polite and respectful to one another. I see us coming together to make TEAM decisions, I see us being Men.

My biggest thanks go out to our team leader Gaye Ann and her husband, our Arus/Boss, for without these people in our lives this program would have never been born. T.G.1.E. has been born and is being raised by us all, the three I named and the 40 team members/Dog Trainers/Handlers. We became one and we will remain one.
With Honor, Frank D.,III Team #8   more letters

My Greyhound Inmate Experience

Lewis

The Greyhound Inmate Experience "Journey to be free" (T .G.I.E) program is absolutely "wonderful not to mention one the most gratifying experiences I have ever encountered next to my participation in the delivery of my children. Being in this program has awaken a part of me that has been dormant for so long, that I had forgotten it existed, the kinder and compassionate understanding side of me, I have always had a great love for dogs, but being in prison made that love just another distant memory.

When you see the abuse and fears in the eyes of these hounds if you have an ounce of compassion within, all you want to do is take them in your arms and love and shelter them from any further harm. Seeing these dogs in such terrible shape upon their arrival bring about a serious anger within me, for the in-humane treatment these greyhounds receive merely for profit. Before my participation in this program I was pretty much angry and stressing all of the time because of my situation, I'm no longer stressing, I still harbor some anger but it has nothing to do with my situation any more, its for the in-humane treatment of the greyhounds.
I can truly say the T.G.1.E program has been most rewarding, to see the way some of these Greyhounds look upon their arrival here, is so saddening, some are really banged up, scared up, and in a state of malnutrition and harboring deep fears, be it for some form abuse, or just the lack of contact with people. And then over the next ten weeks we get to watch them transform from the scared battered dogs into, healthy loving and confident greyhounds, that is "willing to love and please you simply because you loved them, if that doesn't fill your heart with joy and warmth, its simply because you don't have one. This program for me has been a renewal of my "Soul", a new beginning "with a "Positive Chapter" in my life, as well as a new and "Positive Chapter" in the lives of these greyhounds (away from the track).

This program has returned to me a vital part of my being, the part that helps to make a good man, (the need to love, ,and feel compassion with understanding for others de-spite your own situation). I only pray that I can give to the Greyhounds as much or more, of "'what this program has given to me. I have a very (heartfelt.) appreciation for Ron and Gaye-Ann Weaver, to do the Wonderful job their doing takes more than just commitment that commitment has to be fueled by love and a passion for the well being of the greyhounds, for all the hard work and time that goes into making this program possible, (I Thank You Both), I can't give coo-doo's without giving a royal thanks to (ARUS Amy) for believing in me enough to give the opportunity to be a part of this magnificent program (Thank You Ms Amy).

In closing the T.G.1.E. program has bought together a group of people with different back grounds for one common good, the caring and well being of the greyhounds. This program has a profoundly dynamic affect on the people involved, I say that because I have been on this compound here (LCF) for a little better than 3yrs, and I am sure most the guys in this program have past one another in the coming and going during the course of their day without so much as a word being spoken, myself included.

Today we stand as brothers working together for one common good the welfare of the "GREYHONDS". we have our difference of opinions at time, as brother do, and we get past them,we all realize this is not about us as an individual, popularity contest this is "not." it’s a group effort We all have acknowledged the fact that if (one fail we all have failed.

We all love these greyhounds too much too much let any personal differences or opinions hinder us from given our all as a group to make sure the Greyhounds we receive here have the best opportunity for success that we can give.
So to my Brothers I commend you all for a job well done keep up the good work.

My Greyhound Inmate Experience

Frank D III

Being a part of T.G.I.E. is truly a blessing. I am so happy and at the same time honored to say that I am a member of such a great team of people doing work for such a great cause for a wonderful, beautiful breed of Dog

This program is not a job; this is a wonderful journey we are all on as one for the better of the Greyhound’s. Knowing I’m helping a Grey find his way and give him love and structure and returning them to puppy mode as I call it means so much to me. It brings a great big smile to my face when our team leader Gaye Ann Weaver tells us that Grey’s have been adopted, I’m always glad to hear about the dog’s I personally trained but at the same time just as glad to hear great news about all OUR dog’s, we are a TEAM and these are all OUR Grey’s. I truly enjoy being involved in such a great team effort being here where I am, when it comes to the program and dealing with my supervisor’s they all make me feel human again, I am talked to with respect. I can feel the sincerity from all my supervisor’s and know they actually appreciate my hard work and dedication; they make me feel more of a Man than just another inmate or another number. I see this program changing something inside me and a lot of the other members making us more of a Man. I see us being polite and respectful to one another. I see us coming together to make TEAM decisions, I see us being Men.

My biggest thanks go out to our team leader Gaye Ann and her husband, our Arus/Boss, for without these people in our lives this program would have never been born. T.G. 1 .E. has been born and is being raised by us all, the three I named and the 40 team members/Dog Trainers/Handlers. We became one and we will remain one.

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Inmate Handlers Letters

We are always inspired by the sentiments of the dog handlers. We hope you will take a few minutes (with a box of kleenix) and be drawn into the heart and soul of our TGIE dog handlers.

My Greyhound Inmate Experience