Unconditional Love program provides new
beginnings for canines, inmates
Unconditional love between inmate and Poppy. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
Alaqua Animal Refuge is a special place of healing for animals. Since
2007, the no kill refuge has taken in thousands of unwanted,
neglected and abandoned animals, all of which are given a second
chance in life. Through their efforts, Alaqua finds happy homes for
At times, circumstances prove challenging, as some dogs arrive at
the refuge severely neglected or abused. The psychological damage
they incurred causes them to shy away from humans, which in turn
makes them less likely to be adopted. When these situations occur;
Alaqua has a special outreach called their Unconditional Love
The refuge is working with inmates at the Walton Correctional
Institution to train the dogs to become companions. Once a pack of
10 is chosen, the dogs spend 10-12 weeks in at the prison. The
inmates, who are both trainers and caretakers, spend 24/7 with their
dog. A prison trainer and Alaqua staff spend about 14 hours per week
at the facility leading the training sessions. During the first two weeks,
the inmates and canines utilize basic orientation skills. The remainder
of the program is dedicated to training exercises with the dogs
learning to sit, stand, heel and leash walk, ultimately leading to
Inmate demonstrates the calming effect of Jin Shin Jyutsu on Marigold. Lori
The practice of Jin Shin Jyutsu is introduced early on and practiced
by inmates throughout the course of the program. Jin Shin Jyutsu is
an ancient art that harmonizes the balance of body, mind and spirit
through hands-on practice. This practice enhances the bond and
results in the ability for the canine to grow, change and ultimately
experience healing and harmony.
The inmates benefit from the program as well, learning empathy,
patience and respect while teaching the dogs basic skills. Similar
programs report 97% of inmate handlers and sitters demonstrated
greater empathy and decreased depression during incarceration;
87% demonstrated improved communication skills; and institutional
staffs report a decrease in disciplinary issues and improved
institutional adjustment by inmates involved in canine training
programs. The program demonstrates a true picture of second
chances, both to the canine and to the inmate.
A sense of responsibility was the biggest reward mentioned by
inmates at the most recent graduation ceremony January 26, 2016.
“The program has done a lot for me, teaching me compassion and
responsibility. It’s helped me open up and be something productive,”
said inmate C. Justice.
Unconditional Love Program Jan. 26 graduating group. Lori Ceier/Walton
There were approximately 40 people in attendance at the ceremony.
Many had tears in their eyes as they witnessed the success of the
program as they watched the inmates show off their hard work.
Alaqua volunteers Cathy Potter, and Chase Johnson, were in
attendance. Both were extremely excited to watch two dogs in
particular, Poppy and Marigold graduate.
“Poppy and Marigold came in with about 4 other similar sized dogs
and some bigger dogs from a rescue who’s owner had died leaving
them with no one to care for them. Alaqua took many of them. The
other small dogs got adopted pretty quickly. They were more
socialized than Poppy and Marigold, especially Marigold. She was
petrified on the day she came in and wouldn’t let anyone come near
her,” said Potter.
Some of the dogs that graduated already have new forever homes,
one going on to become a service dog, and a few are still available
for adoption at Alaqua.
The Unconditional Love Program is supported by public donation. If
you would like to donate, sponsor a dog or learn more about the
Unconditional Love Program, go to:
or call Jody Bailen, operations manager
at (850) 880-6691.
Alaqua Animal Refuge Unconditional Love Program
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