Every year two million stray dogs are put to death in the USA.
They are taken to shelters to see if anyone wants them.
Hardly anyone does of course.
Theyâre dirty, often diseased, undomesticated.
No one has the time and patience to clean and train them so they die.
Whatâs the alternative?
If only there was a group of people that had enough time to clean and train those dogs?
Theyâd be much more likely to find good homes.
Then they wouldnât have to die.
But where could you find a group of people like that?
People who would do all that work for no pay?
A group of people with that amount of time to spare?
There is one place: prison.
In prison there are lots of people with nothing but time.
So the Massachusetts Department of Correction tried an experiment.
They partnered with a rescue charity called Donât Throw Us Away.
They asked prisoners to volunteer to train and look after dogs.
For eight weeks a dog would share an inmatesâ cell.
Each inmate would keep the dog clean and handle all its medical needs.
They would feed and exercise the dog.
And they would train the dog in basic obedience, so that after eight weeks the dog could find a good home.
And they wouldnât have to die.
The results were better than anyone expected.
Inmates couldnât wait to get a dog to share their cell.
From hardened criminals came an outpouring of pent up emotion.
Feelings they couldnât show in front of the other inmates.
But they could to a dog.
And prison authorities found the inmates began to open up and learn tenderness, care and companionship.
And an amazing thing happened.
While the prisoners were helping the dogs get better, the dogs were doing the same for the prisoners.
As one inmate said âWhen youâre in prison you put a wall up. A dog is a live being that trusts you totally, so you trust the dog. You donât need that wall.â
More than that, the inmates felt sympathy for the abandoned dogs.
The dogs had had a rougher life than they had.
Another of the inmates said âPeople forget about you when youâre inside. Just like these dogs been forgot about. They have to learn to trust again.â
And for once the inmates could see the benefit of rules.
If they could teach the dogs to learn to obey simple commands, they had a chance of finding a good home.
And the inmates worked with the dogs on learning the rules.
Another inmate said âSome of these dogs have been through a lot. Iâve got to show her thereâs a better life.â
And, when their dog actually gets a good home the prisoners are thrilled. Itâs almost like graduation.
And gradually, without realising it, the inmates are also being rehabilitated back into the world.
They are learning about patience, responsibility and trust.
As another inmate said âIâm learning to be a dad, to be part of my family when I go homeâ.
It reminds me of an ad Neil Drossman wrote years ago in New York.
It was for a charity that retrained disabled people, and it showed a man in a wheelchair repairing a TV set.
The headline said: WHAT YOU SEE HERE IS A TV SET REPAIRING A MAN