Only three residents in the history of the Living in Balance treatment program at St. Patrick’s House Community Residential Facility (CRF) have been allowed to sleep during group sessions. Those three residents are puppies from the Pat’s for Paws program and believe me, the men who live in St. Patrick’s House are happy when the pups are finally all sleeping.
The Pat’s for Paws Program, now three years old, partners with the Prince George Humane Society and volunteer dog trainers to take in unadoptable dogs and have them trained and socialized by offenders in the program. After about six months, the dogs are then adopted back into the community.
This program is based on the concept that most of the unadoptable dogs in animal shelters come from a history of abuse and neglect and without correction of their difficult behaviours, they cannot be adopted by families. Similarly, many offenders have faced their own difficult histories and need to learn new skills and develop positive supports in order to re-enter society.
Pairing the two not only assists the animals that would likely otherwise be euthanized, but also supports the offenders, who learn unconditional love and compassion while giving back to the community.
After the previous adoption of Shikira and Thunder through the Pat’s for Paws/Humane Society program, the program took on an Elkhound cross named Kenzie, who had been significantly abused. Kenzie needed time in the St. Patrick’s House program to heal from her injuries and learn to trust humans again.
Just as Kenzie was getting used to the CRF rules and men, the Humane Society approached St. Patrick’s House for assistance with three young husky puppies. The puppies had been abandoned and were too young to be away from their mother and needed constant care and feeding.
Staff met with the residents of St. Patrick’s House and asked the men if they wanted to take in and care for the puppies. The men looked at the photos of the puppies and immediately agreed. Luckily they were blissfully unaware of the chaos and responsibility that would befall them.
The puppies were named Eleri, Adara and Freya, and it was difficult to remember and keep track of who was who! Add to that 18 single men with little parenting experience having to constantly monitor and care for the pups who were still not toilet trained.
The hope that the older dog, Kenzie, would become a surrogate mother for the pups was dashed initially when Kenzie was fearful of the pups and spent most of her day trying to hide from them. Luckily, within a few short weeks Kenzie took to the young pups and learned to take part in raising them. As did the men, who were quick to chastise loud parole officers who entered the living room when the puppies had finally fallen asleep!
The puppies quickly grew and were adopted when they were about nine weeks old, followed by Kenzie who became the first dog to be adopted by a former St. Patrick’s House client. The resident was able to prove himself capable not only of living on his own, but also won the approval of the Humane Society to adopt the dog.
The Prince George Parole Office continues to work in cooperation with the Humane Society. Two parole staff members have even adopted three dogs for their own households through the program.
The aboriginal wellness and employment program run at Aghelh Nebun CRF, are also in the process of adopting a camp dog through the program. Having Duke, a shepherd cross, hanging around the camp may have assisted in motivating the CRF into seeing the need for a dog at their facility. Duke is being transferred to his new home at Camp in mid June and the parolees at the CRF are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to earn the trust of the newest resident, and likely feed him any of the camp leftovers.
St. Patrick’s House and Aghelh Nebun CRF’s are always looking for any offenders who want to consider participating in this training program while they are on a UTA, Day Parole or Statutory Release with Residency, to think about applying to the Prince George area on release. However, you may want to consider purchasing a lint roller before you come.