April 23, 2015
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Published April 23, 2015
By: Wes Locher
To view the story online, visit: http://www.starfl.com/news/local-news/finding-forever-homes-one-dog-at-a-time-1.468578?page=0.
Ricky is a 2-year-old foxhound.
His is just one success story of many from the Developing Adoptable Dogs With Good Sociability (DAWGS) program based out of the Gulf Forestry Camp in White City.
For the past five years the DAWGS in Prison program, a partnership between the Florida Department of Corrections, the Board of County Commissioners and the St. Joseph Bay Humane Society has taken abused, abandoned and homeless dogs and utilized inmate trainers to teach the animals basic obedience skills, transforming them into adoptable pets.
The program provides inmates with vital skills that will aid them in securing them employment upon release.
Due to the efficiency of system many of the dogs are claimed before they even finish the program and their new families are present to watch them graduate.
Sadly, this wasn’t the case for Ricky.
Unlike many of his classmates Ricky didn’t have an adopter waiting to take him to a new home at his commencement ceremony in January. Until the right fit could be found Ricky was put through the program a second time to work out any existing kinks.
During his second graduation, Ricky came out more confident than ever, but still no forever home.
To make room for more dogs to go through the program a foster parent needed to be found. It was DAWGS volunteer John Dykema, who has worked with the program for the past two years, who stepped up to the plate.
After the DAWGS graduation ceremony in January Fallone adopted Joey, a fellow foxhound and classmate of Ricky’s. When Fallone left for college, she took Joey with her leaving her mother, Patty, dog-less.
“Patty got to know Joey really well,” Christy said. “She just adored him. She saw Ricky’s profile online and she called me and said, ‘I have to have this dog.’ She knew the breed and it’s all about making a good match.”
Once the adoption application checked out, Ricky was scheduled to be put on a transport carrier bound for Roosevelt Island in NYC.
The secret to Ricky’s success? It sounds like lots of love from Gulf County was a factor.
Since the program’s inception, 390 dogs have graduated and 438 inmates have learned the skills of compassion, patience, tolerance and teamwork.
“The program really is a win-win,” Dykema said “We do it for the welfare of both the animals and the inmates. I want to see the men prepared to go out into society and I don’t want to see them coming back.”
As Florida's largest state agency, the Department of Corrections employs more than 22,000 members statewide, incarcerates more than 100,000 inmates and supervises nearly 146,000 offenders in the community.