Oklahoma Dogs and Inmates Form New Lives in Friends for Folk Program

What a lovely story of how working together with dogs we can make things better for all of us. Thanks to Allied News for this...

What a lovely story of how working together with dogs we can make things better for all of us.

Thanks to Allied News for this article.

Guide dog program offers inmates, dogs a second chance

By Carol Cole

It was an icy day in late January, a Wednesday, when Janet Carpenter first met Boots.”

Carpenter called it love at first sight” for the slender black Labrador mix.

Boots had been selected for the Friends for Folks training program at the Lexington Correctional Center and the blind Norman woman had recently realized that her beloved fourth guide dog Flute” would not be around much longer.

Would you like to come and live at my house? We have toys and treats,” Carpenter, 54, asked Boots, who had lived at Second Chance Animal Sanctuary since she arrived with a litter of puppies about a year before.

The slightly skittish Boots squirmed that winter day and shyly took a treat from Carpenter.

What a good girl. You take it gently like Flute does. Well call you Bootsie Wootsie. I love scratching doggies behind their ears. Anyway you are going to get to sleep on the bed,” she said.

Thats what we like to hear,” said Mary Katherine Long, executive director of Second Chance, who told Carpenter that she had dog sense.”

Carpenter was finally united with Boots at the Friends for Folks graduation last week at Lexington Correction Center after the dog completed an intense 12-week training program.

Drs. Charles and Mary Carpenter, a retired University of Oklahoma professor and a medical researcher respectively, traveled to Lexington to see the graduation and their oldest daughter reunite with Boots. It was the first time either had been inside a prison.

You have another dog to spoil,” said her dad, who seemed pleased they were there to witness the ceremony.

Carpenter lost her sight when she was 20 to complications from diabetes. Shes had a series of guide dogs Vera, Quasar, Nanny and Flute. But dogs, especially large dogs, dont live as long as people or even small dogs. And Carpenters mobility had lessened in recent years, making her less able to work a guide dog properly. What she wanted was a good companion dog, who might be able to learn to fetch things for her.

Enter Boots, with a slender face and white blaze on her chest and socks, who learned to sit, stay, lie down, heel and do a hard return” in the Friends for Folks program.

Shes extremely intelligent,” said Danny Goulsby, the inmate who trained Boots. I had it the easiest.”

Boots was Goulsbys first dog-training experience and its inspired him to want to learn more and perhaps become a professional dog trainer when hes released in about three years.

Once she bonds with (Carpenter) shell act for the love,” he said, calling Boots a laid-back dog, mellow.”

Goulsby said he was happy to get to meet the woman who will have Boots to love in the future.

Its good to see her because I know the dog is going to be all right,” he said, wistfully. Shes going to get babied.”

When he began training Boots, the soft-spoken, 31-year-old Goulsby said, we were both scared of the world.” Goulsby has been in prison for first-degree manslaughter since he was 17.

Just to love (Boots) it helped me,” he said. My goal now is to learn the art of training the dogs.”

Boots was one of eight dogs in the recent Friends for Folks graduation. Four have been placed, with one expected to be placed in the next week or so.

The program was started in 1990, at first bringing in strays that were spayed or neutered, mostly from area animal shelters.

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