About 30 volunteers, adoptive parents, a veterinarian and a veterinarian technician were invited to Clallam Bay Corrections Center (CBCC) along with five very eager dogs for the second annual “CBCC Reunion” on Sept. 26.
The reunion, the brainchild of Barb Brabant and Mel Marshall of Welfare Animals Guild (WAG) and Tanja Cain and Michelle Klepps of the corrections center, is a way of reuniting the incarcerated dog handlers with the dogs they trained and were adopted out into the community.
Dogs in the program were paired with the incarcerated trainers and are with them 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The trainers have actively worked with several dogs through the years, and the number of dogs they take can easily double when litters of puppies are given to WAG.
“Up to five puppies at a time can be in a cell with two trainers — it can make for a long night and a big mess in the morning,” Brabant said.
Anxious and eager, the dogs were led into the visit room where their trainers were already on their knees waiting for them with open arms.
Brabant, who started the program March 2012, said she is thrilled that Clallam Bay Corrections Center has allowed the reunion event.
“The trainers pour their hearts and souls into these dogs,” she said. “They not only train them in basic obedience but show them love and compassion.”
Many of the dog-handlers said this is the first time in their lives they have felt or have given these kind of feelings.
The event not only allows the trainers to be reunited with their dogs but enables them to meet the dogs’ new parents and gives the parents the chance to see who turned their dog’s life around.
Heartbreaking though it can be to relinquish a dog just as it’s turned around, program officials said, the trainers are given a new dog that needs them just as much as the last one.
At one point, trainers were allowed to give testimonials of their experiences. William Friedrichs, a trainer for the past four years who has handled and trained some of the most difficult dogs, said, “This is a great program. We get these dogs, who aren’t really unlike us … they made some mistakes. To be able to take a dog that no one wants, that’s unfit for society, and work with them and see them become part of someone’s family … that’s what makes this program so rewarding.
“If a broken dog can come in and get rehabilitated, it parallels the goals for which we’re striving.”
Beyond the tail-wagging reunion, seven trainers were awarded certificates for passing Grisha Stewart’s “Behavior Adjustment Training” test, the training program WAG implements. Stewart flew from Alaska to conduct the rigorous, two-day test.
“I never saw a group of men study that hard – they even had notes posted above their bunk to study at night,” Michelle Klepps, Unit Supervisor at CBCC, said.
Stewart has only certified 120 people into her program worldwide since 2010.
After her visit to CBCC, it is now 128, including Brabant, who also took (and passed) the test.
All seven trainers passed, six scoring in the 90th percentile and one scoring 100 percent.
“I was unbelievably proud, as this is an incredibly hard test,” Brabant said. “It gives the trainers something to fall back on when they get out.”
Even trainers with no chance of release still took the test and scored exceptionally well, program officials said.
For more information about Welfare Animals Guild, visit www.wagsequimwa.org.
CBCC 2 –
Volunteers, trainers, parents and dogs at the second annual reunion.