Puppies Behind Bars

Published 12 January 10 05:55 PM | RebeccaL

Has your child ever asked you for a puppy? They are so cute and cuddly that we all can understand why a child would want one. Having a dog can bring so much fun and joy into our lives but they also require a lot of time and patience amongst other things. Kids usually do not think about or may not understand just how much work it takes to own a dog, which can be just one of the many reasons why a parent says 'no' when a child asks to get a puppy. But what if you want to say 'yes', but circumstances are such that you are not able to? Well...being a volunteer with the program Puppies Behind Bars may just be a solution to your problem.

Puppies Behind Bars is an amazing program in which inmates in correctional facilities in the New York Tri State Area raise and train puppies. These puppies live in the cell with their raisers who are responsible for caring for and training them. The puppies then go out 2-3 weekends a month with volunteers referred to as "puppy sitters" who as the website describes:
"take the dogs into their homes in order to expose them to things they won't experience in prison. These can be as simple as hearing doorbells or the sounds of a coffee grinder, and as complex as learning how to ride in a car and walk down a crowded sidewalk."

The dogs are golden retrievers and labs whose ages range about 5 or 6 months to about 10 months old. The goal is to have them graduate and move on to further training as bomb sniffing dogs or service dogs. Since these dogs are on such a strict regime, they are house trained and are much better behaved than most puppies. They are not allowed to sit on furniture, eat 'human' food, or bark.

Since my roommate was a volunteer for this program, I was able to see first hand how the program works and enjoy spending time with the wonderful dogs. As someone who has never had a dog before, it was a great way not only to learn what it would be like to own a dog, but to get out of the house and do something different. I will admit it was hard at times to say goodbye, but it was fun being with so many different dogs of all sizes and personalities.

Here is how it works if you are a volunteer: You must commit for one year to the program. After a few days of training, the volunteers then begin taking the puppies for either an overnight stay once a month or 2 weekend days a month. You only need to take the dog for a few hours during the day. The program allows you to request specific dogs but there are times you may not be given that dog. The volunteer is responsible for picking up and dropping off the dog and the correctional facilities.

Depending on if you think your child would be able to deal with saying good-bye to the dogs after a few hours or even an overnight stay with them, this program is a great way to have all the excitement that comes with having a dog without having to own one, and at the same time your child will be learning things like responsibility for caring for another living being. And you will be giving back to an important program.

Learn more about the program by clicking here. Even if you don't think the program is for you, check out the site anyway and pass on the info.

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