Watch as Ronnie, an inmate handler at CTF, talks about his experience in the New Life K9s program and what it means to him. Ronnie was a great leader in the program and has since passed away. His commitment to the program is remembered by all of our inmate handlers and inspires them to continue our mission and save lives.
It has been a few weeks since the last time I have written a journal. It's not that I have become lazy with my writing, it is the emotions that overcome me everytime I try to write about Sonny. I can't believe that he will be 2 years old already! Time goes by so fast in life. Most inmates serving time want time to move fast so they can get released. I want time to go slow so I will have more time with Sonny. In just 20 more days he will be leaving to get matched with someone. I am so filled with pride and happiness that he will be going on to be a service dog. I also will be very sad in knowing that I will be losing him forever. Sonny has brought me joy and love into my life and I just never want to lose those feelings. I know I will never forget him for the rest of my life. It would be impossible for me to forget all the fun we have had together. He will always be my baby puppy. Right now Sonny is sleeping on my bed and he just looks so beautiful. I have always loved to watch him nap because he does the cutest things in his sleep. It has always brought me peace and comfort when I can't sleep late at night. I am really going to miss him so much. I am never going to be able to say goodbye to him without crying. I have always considered myself to be a strong person but no matter how hard I try, Sonny will always bring out the little boy in me. So with his last few days with us, I am really just enjoying having a lot of fun with him. What I can say is that because of Sonny, I was able to change so many things in my life. Being in the program has helped me realize what I need to work on as a person - what I will need to continue to work on within myself. I know I am a work in progress. Because of Sonny's love and our bond I was able to open up and let people in. I am able to share my feelings. I am not afraid to love. -Robert (CTF Inmate)
A Bicycle and a Dog
When I was a young boy, the two things I wanted most in life, was a bicycle and a dog. I was never allowed to have either. I have long since put the bicycle out of my mind, however, I’ve never stopped longing for a dog. Dog ownership was not, and is not, the persistent wish. My interest was always in the relationship with a creature I adored. You are never alone or unloved when you are with a dog.
I had not touched a dog in over forty years during my incarcerated term. When I heard about the NLK9s program while housed at another prison, I decided I would do everything possible to transfer to CMC-West, and apply for admission to this program. It was an extremely difficult task, especially being rejected on my first interview, but I have persisted and made it in the program.
I love all our dogs, I even loved them before I got to know them. I would watch them being walked by the E yard dining room where I worked and wondered if I would get the chance to work with them.
I was the last one in my group to newly assigned inmates to be assigned a dog, so I took a positive outlook, someone has to be last.
I’ve been assigned to Angel and she is a perfect angel. I love her beyond measure. I wake up each morning and my first thought is her, and she is my last thing I think about when I go to sleep. I love how she smells, I love every bark (almost), and when she is happy and wagging her little tail, I’m teary eyed.
At 71 years, I’m a boy again! I’m happy beyond anything I could have imagined. Im no longer in a prison.
Present for Today
One of my goals as a dad is to constantly evolve as a parent. Having two children I have learned that part of that process is learning to be an effective communicator. Training dogs through positive reinforcement has aided me in improving my communication skills and unveiled my need to do so with my kids, as well. Learning to build a healthy bond with the dogs as I “listen” to them; by paying attention to their body language and actions helps promote feelings of safety and trust between us. Both canines and children respond to gentleness and care. Through my personal experience, I have realized that an aversive mindset and techniques do not work without leaving scars - emotionally, mentally, or physically - on the recipient.
Learning to communicate in a positive way with an animal who cannot speak has helped prepare me to talk with my teenage daughter who sometimes finds solace in her silence. Working with a puppy who wants to get into everything reminds me to be patient and compassionate as I listen to the stories of my 10-year-old son.
As an incarcerated dad, this program has been a type of second chance for me. It has provided me with the opportunity to re-visit some areas I lacked in as a father before my incarceration. I get to practice being responsible and consistent for someone else as I care for this puppy. I am able to help people directly through my work with these dogs and set a good example for my kids, allowing me to show the ongoing change in my life.
This experience with NLK9s has really helped put things into a different perspective. The ups-and-downs remind me to be thankful because it is through these experiences that I grow. To make the most of each moment in the present, which quickly turns to the past, may be mirrored by those I influence; so if a caring, loving nature is what I hope to instill, I need to show that from a genuine heart.
NLK9s provides me with the unexpected blessing of the support from these dogs as I work through the memories that continue to plague me. Realizing that I failed my children as their dad, that I put them in a position to endure the consequences of my foolish choices is a sorrow I cannot explain. Working with Robbie, however, reminds me daily that it is not what happened yesterday but what we are going to do today that matters. My children Lilyana and Kristopher really prove this point as they give me their unconditional love, showing me they do not care about yesterday, but want me present for today.
-Kristopher Blehm (CMC)