I’ve spent the last three years looking for a running partner. I’ve tried a couple. My friend MMK has amazon legs and no matter what I cannot keep up. My other friend A.O. is a natural runner, which I am anything but, so even on my best days I slow her down. Plus she’s a runner/talker and my asthma flares into awkward wheezing. I’ve tried to convince (trick) my husband into running with me. This lasts about three times before he slinks off to do other things. But no worries! About a month ago, after years of searching, I found my perfect running partner. His name is Marley and he’s a four year old, King Charles-Spaniel-Something-With-Curley-Hair-Mix doggie.
We’re a dog family and have always had pets in our home. Before we adopted Marley we had the best Cavalier King Charles Spaniel rescue dog named Buddy. We loved Buddy and took his fancy bred self into our not fancy house and lived with him for four years. He was sweet and snore-y and our 7 year-old daughter’s best friend. But he seemed a little off lately so we decided maybe to a friend would make him feel better. A friend introduced us to the Gwinnett County Jail Dog Program. http://www.gwinnettcountysheriff.com/index.php/operation-second-chance-3/ Operation Second Chance is a great rescue program where they remove dogs from kill shelters and place them in the Gwinnett County jail with several prisoner handlers. These handlers train the animals which then acts as a dual rehabilitation for the prisoner and the dog.
I love this idea. I worked for several years as a caseworker for Fulton County and The Department of Juvenile Justice. I have seen firsthand how important it is for people to appreciate human and animal life and to learn compassion for those smaller than themselves. This seems like a wonderful opportunity for the dogs and for the inmates.
We sent in an application for Marley (who happened to be on Good Day Atlanta that morning! We had no idea!) and were invited to come meet him with our children and Buddy. The Deputy Sheriff escorted us in and down a mile long hallway from the front of the building to the side where the inmates are held. Buddy was very excited (his normal state) and the girls were a little nervous walking into the jail, having no idea what to expect (I suspect it was something like a cartoon with big cells and inmates banging their cups against the bars.) We waited in the little two sided rooms like the ones you see on TV where you speak to the prisoner on one side through the glass (I have actually had many meetings with clients via rooms like this, but the girls thought it was pretty interesting.) The deputy brought Marley over and it was a good match from the start. No aggression between dogs, he was friendly and receptive to the girls. We decided to take Marley home that day.
Things turn bittersweet for our family from here. Marley adapted beautifully to our home. Buddy, who we rescued from a breeder because he had a heart condition (chronic in KCSpaniels) was overwhelmed by the events of the day. As our daughter said, “The day we got Marley was the best day of my life. The next was the worst.” Poor Buddy died that night. His heart gave out and due to his normal level of excitement we did not realize when he changed from excited to having major problems. I will not even go into the trauma of that situation in our home.
The good news is that four weeks later Marley (who’s original name was Harley but we have a history of naming our dogs after dead musicians so Marley fit and rhymed) is doing great. I’m not convinced he is really 4 (he’s acting a lot more puppyish than that. The mangled Barbie legs around the house can attest to that.) From what I understand he lived at the jail for about a month and had one failed adoption before us. He’s smart and loves to obsessively fetch his ball. He’s good with our kids and ignores the cat and only barks at strangers. Admittedly, he has a lot of energy and we need to walk/run him several times a day. I can see how his energy level would not be a good fit for all homes. Luckily, we have a high energy home so it works for us!
If you are looking for a new dog I definitely suggest the Operation Second Chance. There is a small fee that goes back to the program but Marley is up to date on his vet visit/shots and is neutered. Hopefully one day more jails will consider implementing programs like this helping more inmates and dogs in their quest for rehabilitation.