When Shelly Blount saw a post online last week about a dog who was about to be put down in North Carolina, she called the shelter immediately. To her relief, they told her the dog had just been adopted, but it got her thinking about the other dogs who might be in danger. She asked if there were other dogs scheduled to be put down and they told her a dog named Caleb was next on the list — so Blount got in her car.
Accompanied by a friend, Blount drove four hours from Virginia to the shelter, determined to rescue Caleb. When she arrived, she realized two other dogs were about to be put down as well. Despite having three other rescue dogs already at home, Blount suddenly knew what she had to do.
“I asked the limit on how many you could adopt,” Blount told The Dodo. “They said there wasn’t one. So I decided to get all three.”
Blount had arrived at the shelter that day expecting to leave with just Caleb — and instead she left with Caleb, Charisma and Bella.
As they began the long drive home, all three dogs were so excited and couldn’t contain their happiness, and Blount knew she had absolutely done the right thing.
“Caleb was sooo excited — kept giving kisses from the back seat, and his tail was wagging so fast,” Blount said. “Bella was so content being held so she sat in my friend’s lap and literally didn’t move. Charisma, my sweet little angel, was literally hugging me and slept the entire ride.”
When Blount decided to adopt all three dogs, she hadn’t really had a plan. She knew she couldn’t leave them at the shelter to be put down, but she also didn’t have room for three more dogs at home — but luckily, within days, she’d already found the best new homes for both Caleb and Bella.
“Caleb is super happy in his new home with a friend of mine,” Blount said. “She has another Lab who he loves. Bella went to my boyfriend and let’s just say they are inseparable.”
Blount is likely going to keep Charisma, as the pair have bonded quite a bit in the days since the rescue. Either way, Charisma would need to stay with Blount for a while — because after a vet visit, she realized the sweet little dog was pregnant.
No one at the shelter had told Blount that Charisma was pregnant with five to six puppies, and later said they hadn’t known. Not only did Blount save Charisma that day, but she also saved the lives of her puppies, and for that Charisma is continuously grateful.
“My Charisma girl is very attached to me and we take lots of cat naps because she’s so sleepy,” Blount said.
Charisma is due to give birth within the next week, and her new family is so excited for her. In the meantime, she’s enjoying spending lots of time cuddling with her new mom and best friend, thanking her every day for saving her life.
Shelley is a real star and, indeed, so are all the other people that rescue dogs.
At the risk of blowing our own trumpet, and I don’t intend to, here’s a photograph from home to finish today’s post.
I spent 18 months studying Creekridge Park, a diverse and mixed-income area of Durham, North Carolina, to understand how black, white and Latino residents interacted with each other. Between 2009 and 2011, I interviewed 63 residents, attended neighborhood events and conducted a household survey.
I learned that white, black and Latino residents led rather separate social lives in Creekridge Park. Eighty-six percent of white people said their closest friends were white, and 70% of black residents surveyed reported that their best friends were black.
One black resident lamented that neighbors weren’t as “friendly as I had hoped and thought that they would be – or at least, this image I had in my head of what ‘friendly’ would be like.”
White, black and Latino people in Creekridge Park even had different experiences with something as seemingly innocuous as pet ownership.
Many white residents described friendships growing as a result of walking their dogs around the neighborhood, with chance encounters on the sidewalk turning into baseball games, dinners and even vacations together.
“It’s the dogs that are our connectors,” said Tammy, a white homeowner in her fifties. “That’s how a lot of us have gotten to know each other.”
Such positive interactions did not necessarily happen across racial boundaries. More often, I found, dogs reinforced boundaries.
When Jerry, a black homeowner in his sixties, stopped to chat with some dog-owning customers, who were white, in the outdoor seating area of a neighborhood bakery, the staff asked him to leave.
“I owned some dogs like that at one particular time. And I was just speaking to them. All of a sudden, I’m a panhandler,” Jerry said, incredulous and hurt.
Jerry is a black disabled veteran who was wearing his old army uniform that day. He figures they thought he was begging for money.
The dogs didn’t create the interracial boundaries at the bakery, which caters to a primarily white, middle-class clientele. In fact, the dogs presented an avenue to connect black and white neighbors. But they gave bakery staff a reason to intervene, to maintain interracial boundaries.
The treatment of dogs in Creekridge Park also divided neighbors of different races.
Tammy, the same resident who said dogs served as “connectors” in the neighborhood, disliked that her Latino neighbors wouldn’t let their dog into the house, leaving her tied up in the backyard.
One day, when she heard her neighbor’s dog barking, she decided to monitor their backyard with binoculars, to make sure the dog was OK. When the father spotted her doing her surveillance, Tammy lied. She said she was looking at a different dog.
Tammy was not, however, embarrassed when recounting this story. She felt she was justified in considering the dog’s well-being. She offered the family a bigger dog house and began to take the dog on hour-long walks twice a day. Eventually, she adopted the dog as her own.
Tammy said that she always intervened whenever she saw dogs mistreated in the neighborhood. However, the only examples she shared during our interview involved Latino families.
Latino families are not the only Creekridge Park residents who tied up their dogs. The practice is common enough across Durham that a local group was formed in 2007 to build free dog fences.
Police Come ‘Almost Immediately’
Several white residents of Creekridge Park have even reported their neighbors to the police for suspected animal abuse.
Emma, a white homeowner in her thirties, called the police when she thought her neighbors were involved in dog fighting.
They “came almost immediately,” she said.
Generally, Emma told me, if she knows her neighbors, she will confront them directly about problems she perceives. Otherwise, she prefers to call the police.
Given how segregated friendship networks are in Creekridge Park, this seemingly non-racial distinction between “known” and “unknown” neighbors means that in practice Emma involved police in conflicts only with black and Latino neighbors.
How White People Enforce Their Rules
This white willingness to report non-white neighbors for “unruly” behavior recalls numerous recent incidents nationwide in which white people have called the police on black people for perfectly legal activities.
In July 2018 a white woman in San Francisco threatened an 8-year-old black girl for “illegally selling water without a permit.” A few months before, a white woman dubbed by internet users as “BBQ Becky” called the cops on a black family barbecuing in an Oakland park for using an “unauthorized” charcoal grill.
In U.S. neighborhoods, middle- and upper-class white residents enjoy a privileged social position by virtue of their race and class. They understand that police, local businesses and government agencies exist to serve them – the same social institutions that often underserve or even target racial minorities.
By drawing arbitrary lines between right and wrong, insider and outsider – even good pet owner and bad – white people like Tammy and BBQ Becky use that power to try to shape diverse neighborhoods into their preferred mold.
As a result of white residents’ focus on their own comfort in diverse places, racial inequality can pervade everyday life – even, my research shows, when walking the dog.
I have to say that it’s not entirely clear if dog ownership leads to social cohesion or the opposite.
I need to read the article again but what do readers offer.
The second fascinating contribution from a guest author.
On Monday I mentioned that I had been approached by two authors who wanted to share their articles with the readers of Learning from Dogs and on that day I published a guest post from Dr. Jane Brackman. Today, I’m delighted to share with you the thoughts of the second of those authors, Kylie Dunning, who describes herself as a writer who holds a strong passion for Psychology, especially in the field of Forensics. She is a lover of animals and an avid hiker in her spare time.
Here now follows Kylie’s essay,
Psychology of Healing: Dogs and Inmate Rehabilitation
In 1981, Sister Pauline Quinn envisioned a prison pet partnership program where inmates would train dogs for people with disabilities. Designed to benefit unwanted dogs, the inmates, and the future dog owners, the program was initiated in the Washington state prison for women. The success of the program led to dog training programs in prisons all over the country and has since become part of the material in forensic psychology programs and criminal rehabilitation programs.
Male and female inmates train anywhere from three to fifty dogs at a time for adoption into new families, as service animals, and sometimes for specialized purposes such as bomb-sniffing. There are other benefits. The prisoners who worked as trainers hope to find jobs in animal care as soon as they leave prison. Others, serving longer sentences, are given a sense of purpose and an improved outlook. Psychologically, having a dog to care for serves as a form of therapy and decreases depression, and it brings out good qualities in the inmates, even improving their attitude toward each other.
The Nash Correctional Institution in North Carolina has a program called “New Leash on Life,” in partnership with Southern Siberia Rescue, which pays for all the food and medical treatment for the dogs. Three dogs at a time are trained for eight weeks, then offered for adoption. Jerome Peterson, who has served 19 years for a second-degree murder charge, is one of the trainers. He says that teaching the dogs has taught him compassion and made him a better man. “You have to be patient with the dogs,” he explained. “Some have been abused, and some were left stranded.” He says that though only six of the inmates train the dogs, all 980 of the inmates at the medium-security prison benefit from the program. “A lot of guys wake up mad at the world for no reason,” he said. “When they see the dogs, they get happy — excited. Their whole demeanor just changes.”
Lansing Correctional Facility in Kansas, a combined medium- and maximum-security prison, has a population of 2,500 criminals. Their Safe Harbor Prison Dog Program rescues dogs from death row. About 50 of them are trained by about 100 inmates on any given day. So far, about 1,200 dogs of all breeds and ages have found new homes under the program. Inmate Jerry McMullin trains his dogs in 15-minute intervals four times a day, rewarding them with treats he buys for 45 cents a pound at the canteen (out of the dollar a day he earns at his prison job—prisoners aren’t paid for training the dogs). “You don’t want to work with them too long or they stop paying attention. They get bored,” he says. “I use no force or fear, positive reinforcement only.” Inmates like Pete Spencer will go to lengths to help troubled dogs. “I had one who was so physically abused, he had no trust in humans,” Spencer says. “I slept on the floor with him for a month to get his trust and then I taught him commands.”
The inmates can see positive changes from working with dogs. Spencer says of his fellow inmate, “When I first met (McMullin), he was … well, pretty grouchy,” Spencer says. “Now he’s more open and alive and he has a positive outlook.” Other work programs can help prepare inmates for a job after release, but working with dogs may psychologically be a more effective way to rehabilitate them. With prison populations stressing already taxed resources, and the more and more animals in need of homes, the use of dog training programs in prisons is more than a happy accident. It is a creative way of using state resources to do real and lasting change in society.
Well what another wonderfully interesting guest post. Thank you, Kylie. More please!
Using details in Kylie’s article, it was very easy to find this video, plus the photograph at the head of the article came from the Southern Siberian Rescue website.
Homeless dogs are getting special help from inmates. The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office has launched their own “New Leash on Life” program that benefits inmates at the Columbia County Jail and the dogs.