Just viewed Dogs on the Inside. If you haven't seen it yet, I strongly recommend you do.
This documentary follows the steps taken in a program called Don’t Throw Us Away, designed to match recently rescued dogs with convicts behind bars. In the process, the canines and prisoners do each other a world of good. Throughout the video, you get to see a whole lot of two-legged and four-legged creatures helping each other make progress in their lives.
The dynamics of the program? Inmates, living in a restricted and mostly negative environment, get to have some power and control over how they conduct their daily life, interacting in a positive way with another living creature, the dog they are fostering. Man and beast share a cell (It occurred to me that most likely only the humans felt imprisoned. Dogs adapt better to their living situation, as long as a caring human is nearby. Besides, for these dogs, jail was a step up from where they had been).Do the canines have a positive impact on their convicted caretakers? For me, the sight of a convict allowing himself to be filmed kissing a dog answers that question. Meanwhile, the dogs, many rescued from horrendous situations, regain (or gain for the first time) faith in humans. When ultimately put up for adoption, these dogs are more likely to be part of a success story and less likely to be returned by the adopter. It's the classic win/win situation.
One non-spoiler alert—Surprise! Surprise! A stray Border Collie mix named Byram had picked out and walked up to the house of a lady that already had dogs. Guess he sensed she was dog-friendly. That decision led to his rescue. Those Border Collies and their analytical minds!
Sadly, one rescuer admitted that a small percentage of dogs are not suitable for this program (Lance, of Lance: A Spirit Unbroken, immediately came to mind). The message: Dogs should be rescued sooner, rather than later, before too much damage has been done to them.
As a drug and alcohol counselor in a correctional facility, this documentary really hit home. So many times an inmate will tell me, “Jail isn’t doing anything for me. It isn’t helping me.” While recovery has to be a self-generated internal process, everybody, in or out of jail, can always benefit from positive people, places and things in their surroundings. Why not make a tough job—self-improvement—a bit easier? I can’t help but believe that programs like Dogs on the Inside have demonstrated what can happen when, instead of saying “This is how we have always done things” or “That wouldn’t work”, we think outside the box. Dogs have so much to offer; why waste it?
Based on my latest check, Dogs on the Inside can be found on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dogs-Inside-Brean-Cunningham/dp/B00TF86T1M,
and Kanopy: https://www.kanopystreaming.com/product/dogs-inside
among other sites.
If you have seen Dogs on the Inside, how did you react to it? If you plan to view it soon, please come back to Lance’s Dog Patch and post your thoughts. By the way, do you have any dog-themed videos, films or documentaries you’d recommend to us?
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).