Most summers, you’ll find us traveling – to hike, to camp, to bike and to visit family. There have even been some summers when we’ve traveled to ski. Not this year. This summer is the summer of puppy.
I haven’t had a puppy since I was in middle school.
Our most recent beloved dog, the first that my husband, sons and I had together died in April at 15 years of age. Chawie was a rescue, a stray from the Navajo Reservation who was picked up in Gallup, New Mexico and transferred to the Colorado cell dogs training program in the Colorado prison system.
Between two and three years old when we got her, she had a huge, confident personality, the type of dog who loved everyone and feared nothing, except rocky cliffs. She was missing teeth and had a scar on her nose. I always figured she’d been running through the desert, barking at airborne crows and ravens (a favorite pastime) when she misjudged a ledge and took a tumble.
Chawie was a light in many people’s lives and I tear up just thinking about her.
Our new pup is, of course, his own dog. Like Chawie, he’s a Colorado cell dog. Unlike Chawie, he is only 6 months old and never knew life on the “outside,” let alone in the high desert wildlands of the Southwest.
Everything is new to him. Riding in a car (terrifying), running on grass (fabulous), meeting new people (the jury is out, but mostly he’s cautious). He likes other dogs, but definitely is submissive. He is sweet as can be and a bundle of energy. He can fetch and catch like none other.
Just as each of my son’s is completely different, these two dogs are completely different and we were rather foolish to think he’d step right up and act just like her. Over the course of the past 72 hours, he has proven to be lovable and challenging.
But after just a few days, he’s settling in and so are we.
Why A Cell Dog?
If you’re on the hunt for a new companion, we recommend the dogs from the Colorado Prison Trained K9 Companion program (other states have similar programs).
Dogs from the program join your family in tip-top shape: vaccinated, microchipped, neutered or spayed, house trained, crate-trained and even with some tricks at the ready.
They are well-socialized, although the transition from the handler (with whom they worked and lived 24/7 for at least 2 months) to a busy family will take time.
As Debi Stevens, the founder and supervisor of the program in Colorado puts it, “When the dog arrives in your home, it’s like you arriving in Bangladesh.” Everything is new and difficult to understand.
Luckily, the program also dedicates resources to training new owners. Prospective owners have to visit before adopting a dog. During this visit they meet with the dog’s handler and participate in a one-hour class. Adoptive dog owners also receive the handler’s journal (with really detailed comments and training information), reading material on training your dog, and a DVD with tips and suggestions.
We’ve found with both of our dogs that it is important to try to keep up the training as much as you can. If anything, it adds some familiarity to the dog’s life that helps him adapt. It also makes his life with you easier from the get go.
Since 2002, the Colorado Prison Trained K9 Companion Program has trained over 11,000 dogs. Many of them were strays or abandoned dogs who were rescued and evaluated for the program. About half however are dogs whose owners brought them in for training.
If you’re looking to help make a positive difference in a dog’s life (and in the life of the offender/handler who has trained your dog), this program is a winner all-around.
To get started, check out the current list of available Colorado cell dogs. I dare you not to fall in love.
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