For the first nine years of Chiller the Chihuahua’s life he was the constant companion of his beloved owner. Sadly, the man recently took his own life leaving Chiller to mourn over his master’s body until the two were discovered.
Suddenly, the elderly, timid, poorly socialized pooch found himself in a concrete kennel at California’s Kern County Animal Services. His age and temperament meant that his chances of adoption were slim, so it was decided that Chiller would be better off in prison.
Marley’s Mutts Pawsitive Change Prison Training Program is an innovative rescue initiative that takes high risk dogs from kill shelters all over Kern County and places them with prison inmate trainers. The dogs are chosen based on their behavior and energy level. Marley’s Mutts does not discriminate based on breed or size. Pit Bulls and Chihuahuas are two of the most represented breeds in California shelters – they also happen to make excellent candidates for the prison training program.
Chiller is one of seven dogs now living at the California City Correctional Facility and undergoing behavioral training at the hands of seventeen inmates chosen to participate in the program. Marley’s Mutts has proven to be rewarding and rehabilitative for both the inmates and the dogs. The prisoners are able to learn valuable life and work skills, while the high risk dogs receive crucial training that will make them more adoptable when they return to the shelter.
While most inmates understandably prefer to work with a more masculine dog, little Chiller has been welcomed with open arms. Thanks to the dedicated prisoners, Chiller has gone from a shy, terrified wretch to a confident pooch that happily performs the sit, stay, come and lay down commands at the request of his trainers. He has even mastered a small prison yard obstacle course. To see what Chiller’s inmate handler had to say about him (including an adorable poem), click here.
Before returning to the Kern County shelters they were plucked from, Chiller and his six co-trainees will take the Canine Good Citizen Test. If they pass they will receive a prestigious certificate proving their accomplishment. Canine Good Citizens have a far greater chance of adoption, and a much lower chance of returning to the shelter due to behavioral issues.
As far as the human participants in the program, Zach Skow, founder of Marley’s Mutts, told The Dodo that it’s all about getting them to open up.
Our purpose behind this program is to get them to talk openly and understand what they are feeling personally.
The experience of bonding with dogs that have faced difficult pasts, discrimination and abuse allows the inmates to feel a sense of kinship and camaraderie. In giving the dogs a chance at redemption, they will hopefully see that they too are worthy of redemption.
The Marley’s Mutts Program is relatively new – Skow initiated it in February. To help support the growth and continued success of Marley’s Mutts, consider donating to the cause. Shelter dogs like Chiller just may depend on it.
H/T to The Dodo
Featured Image via Marley’s Mutts