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Inmates and dogs benefit from working together –

By Sloane M. Perron Correspondent

Quaboag Current

WEST BOYLSTON – On June 10, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office celebrated the one-year anniversary of Project Good Dog, a program that allows inmates in the work release facility to train shelter dogs with behavioral issues and find the animals their“forever homes” Project Good Dog began when the Second Chance Animal Shelter in East Brookfield approached the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction with an idea that would benefit both the shelter dogs and the inmates.

Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis spoke about the positive impact that Project Good Dog has had, not only on the inmates who train the dogs, but on the facility as a whole. He said that the dogs have reduced stress for inmates and staff ,which improves the level of safety at the prison, “The dogs have almost become the pets of the entire block,” he said. During the first year of the program, 20 dogs have been in the workrelease facility and then been adopted. Eight of these dogs were even adopted by staff at the prison. Currently, inmates are working on training three new dogs as they teach them behaviors and manners that will make them adoptable. “Public safety, that is what this program is all about,” said Evangelidis. “Our job is that people leaving our facility are less likely to commit a crime then when they got here.” He recalled a time in the past when someone asked about rehabilitating inmates, to which the Sheriff answered, “I don’t care if they find God, or a dog.” Since Second Chance Animal Shelter has partnered with the work-release facility, it is clear that for some inmates, having a purpose by training dogs and having the unconditional love of a pet has greatly improved their lives. This program does not cost the taxpayers any money, although donations to Second Chance Animal Shelter are always appreciated in order to cover costs. “We were able to find a wonderful, wonderful partner for this program,” Evangelidis said.

Lindsay Doray from Second Chance Animal Shelter described the types of dogs that enter Project Good Dog. “We’ve got a lot of dogs that are crazy and have no manners or are scared to death,” she said. This is exemplified by Jenna, a dog who was rescued from a dog meat facility in South Korea. Because Jenna spent her entire life in a small cage, her paws are splayed out, and she has never been on a leash, been socialized with other dogs or been trained. Second Chance trains the inmates how to teach these shelter dogs and in turn, the inmates are able to provide the dogs with attentive, round-the-clock care and training. Doray said she was very grateful for the partnership between Second Chance Animal Shelter and the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction, “These dogs would not be here without your help and we appreciate that,” she said.

During the ceremony Evangelidis presented Doray with a citation and a donation of creates and dogs beds made on behalf of Ellie’s Pet Barn. Along with staff from the prison and animal shelter, pet owners who adopted dogs after they went through Project Good Dog were also present. Jamie Lubelczyk adopted her dog Lucy about a year ago. Lucy was one of the first dogs to go through the program. From the time she born and until she was four, Lucy lived in a crate. As a result, she had no interaction with other dogs, other then her brother, or the outside world. Lubelczyk was interested in adopting Lucy, but was worried that her home renovations at the time would postpone the adoption. Instead, she was told by a staff member at the shelter, “Don’t worry, she’s in jail.” Originally Lucy was a scared dog with little energy. “She’s a little bit of a princess now, she thinks it all about her,” she joked, adding that Lucy “got kicked out early” after six of the eight weeks because she was getting too attached to her handler, Bob. Lubelczyk supports Project Good Dog, “I think it made a whole difference for her [Lucy].” John and Annmarie Lapierre adopted their 1- year-old Australian sheep mix Walter on March 31, and he works at the prison and is one of the staff members who donated a pet from Project Good Dog. As a result, Lapierre has seen the benefits of the program first-hand as both a staff member of 15 years and a pet owner. “The day he came in, I fell in love with him,” he said. Walter loves the Lapierre’s two daughters and cat. “He wants to be a friend with everyone,” he said. Lapierre saw Walter on a regular basis as he worked which helped the transition during adoption. According to Lapierre, the transformation the Project Good Dog has on inmates is like “night and day. It gives them a sense of pride, a sense of meaning.” Twenty-six inmates have participated in Project Good Dog since the program began a year ago. Roger Holm recently began training his first shelter dog, Walker, a 10- month-old redbone coonhound. After 34 months in jail, Holm was eager to be transferred to the work-release facility and join the Good Dog Project. He has been training Walker for five weeks and says he is a, “He’s a very good dog, well tempered,” he said of Walker, who he has been training for five weeks. “Patience, I’ve definitely learned patience, and giving back,” Holm said of the Good Dog Project. Holm will miss his pal Walker when he is adopted. Every morning at 5 a.m., Walker jumps into Holm’s bed to sleep next to him. Holm talked about his bond with Walker, “To me, dogs mean family. Without a dog, my family was not complete.”