BY CHARLOTTE FRANSEN (TGIE Greyhound Graduate Owner)
Michigan - Inmates and retired racing Greyhounds help each other to find hope and purpose in difficult circumstances.
Greyhounds spend most of their racing lives in crates. When they can’t race anymore, these dogs need to be socialized because they don’t know what it’s like to live in a home.
The Greyhound Inmate Experience is a non-profit program run by volunteers in Michigan. Established in 2010, the ten-week program focuses on prisoners training, socializing, and caring for retired racing greyhounds.
TGIE was started not only to help the dogs, but to help the prisoners. Many of the inmate participants have said how the program has rehabilitative qualities. "I have another life I'm responsible for; that's a beautiful thing," said Marco Johnson, an inmate serving life, in an interview with The Detroit Free Press. "It teaches you responsibility, humility, patience."
Every ten weeks, 20 new greyhounds come to the program to be supervised and cared for by 40 of the incarcerated dog handlers. These handlers have been carefully chosen and trained to look after the dogs, with each dog being assigned to two handlers. Since most of the greyhounds arrive at the program right from the race tracks, many of them are frail and underfed. Simple things like going up stairs or walking on linoleum floors are alien to these dogs. They are trained to do that kind of thing, as well as a list of commands like sit and stay. The inmates and their dogs grow to love each other. “It was quite comical watching grown men; supposed, ‘hardened criminals’, baby talking dogs,” Chris, one of the handlers, said in a letter on the TGIE website. After the dogs finish the ten weeks, they graduate from the program and are transferred to TGIE’s adoption partners. It can be hard for the handlers to see the dogs go, but they get a new dog to train within a day.
The program has graduated over 900 dogs since it started. The director, Gaye Ann Weaver, said that she likes to give the inmates letters from the owners of the new dogs. These handlers can see how happy the greyhounds are and how far they have come, knowing that they were an important stepping stone in these dog’s journeys.
Sources: http://www.tgie-greyhounds.org/default.aspx https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2015/12/21/inmates-rescue-dogs-who-rescue-inmates/77166628/