Thursday, November 10, 2011

Prison break

Last night, Phoenix and I went to prison. We go every year with my obedience club and give and obedience and agility demonstration that is a “reward for good behavior” kind of thing for the inmates.

The club member who organizes this annual event calls Phoenix the “Prison Dog” because she used to work in corrections and remembers the mals and German shepherds used by the guards. She says Phoenix secretly aspires to be a prison dog. Not sure how she is privy to this information but I’ve added “Prison Dog” to his list of nicknames.

Here’s part of the e-mail Carol sent to all participants before the demo:

“Hi Folks,

Just a reminder that tomorrow night- Wednesday- is the night Phoenix dreams about all year long . . . We meet at 6:30 in the prison lobby. You will need to sign in and need a photo ID. You will also sign a statement that you are taking responsibility for your dog. Don’t bring in wallets, phones, medications . . . Travel light! There will be a place to leave car keys in the building.

Its ok to bring what you need for your dog . . . treats, props for tricks, etc. Good chance Melinda’s article bag will be searched by someone who has no idea of what should be in an article bag, but would recognize a wire cutter.

We go as a group to the gym. We all hold our breath and sometimes muzzles so we all fit into the interlock. Be aware the floor in the hall can be slick for dog paws. Our program starts at 7:00. We introduce ourselves with first names only. During meet and greet-visit about your dog not about you. . . And there may be some folks who remember you or your dog from previous visits or have done community service with us. We will be out by 8:00.”

As promised, a guard searched my article bag before we went in. He also searched the canvas tote I brought to carry treats, a toy, dumbbell, water and a bowl. TG I’d left my great big gear bag at home. They would have had a field day searching that! After the manual search, both bags were put through an x-ray machine. All the handlers had to pass through a metal detector before entering the facility. This was all new this year. The dogs were neither searched nor scanned.

Giving a prison demo gives a whole new meaning to playing to a captive audience. The evening was fast and intense. We did an obedience demo and then an agility demo. The more the dogs mess up, the better the inmates like it it so there’s no pressure to be perfect. Phoenix tore the chute off the closed tunnel (it hadn’t been attached right) and I had one of those OMG moments of panic while he was rolling around all wrapped up in the chute. He popped out with help from me and Jennifer and thought it was all a grand adventure.

The evening ended with a 20-30 minute meet and greet with the inmates. This always proves that Phoenix is no judge of character because he fawned all over the inmates and got scratched and petted and thumped and was a total suck-up. The guys really enjoy the interaction with the dogs. We were told time after time, "Thanks for coming, thanks for bringing your dogs, thanks for doing this."

I haven’t taken Jamie to the prison demo for 5 years. He always liked the demo part but not the meet and greet part, so when Phoenix came on the scene, he got to go and Jamie stayed home. There is one inmate who always asks about Jamie. It’s both sweet and creepy. I mean, he remembers him by name and always asks how he is. Weird.

When we came out, the guards searched my bags again. They said they wanted to make sure I hadn't left any of those "metal things" behind. I told the guy they were too expensive to "leave behind." Clearly he's never had to pay for a set of new scent articles for a dog Phoenix's size.

Best part of the evening is hearing those door clang shut with us on the RIGHT side!


  1. how cool :)

    and I'd be glad to hear the door shut behind me too

  2. That's really cool! I'd like to do that.

    In that inmate's defense, I'd be the creepy one who remembered Jamie years later too. It's a gift lol