Eva, a Catahoula Leopard Dog, was doing some hard time. Eight weeks earlier she had been chosen by St. Joseph Bay Humane Society in Port St. Joe, FL, to take part in the D.A.W.G.S. (Developing Adoptable Dogs with Good Sociability) in Prison program to increase her chances of getting adopted.
She had been transported to the Gulf Correctional Institution’s forestry camp, where she was assigned to a team leader, a handler and a caretaker. The inmates housetrain and crate train as well as teach the dogs basic commands, like sit and stay and how to walk on a leash. In turn the inmates themselves learn skills that may help them when they get out of prison, not least of which is a sense of responsibility. Both dogs and prisoners are working for the same thing: a second chance.
American Lab Rescue, which is based in Willington, CT, helps place pooches that have completed the DAWGS program, and as Eva’s graduation approached, the staff had posted Eva’s photo and bio on Petfinder. Jessica Rollin and her boyfriend, Brad Hancharik, of Oakdale, CT, saw her on the site and contacted the rescue. The couple completed an application, and the rescue did a home inspection. It seemed like a good match. They decided to give it a try by fostering to adopt.
And then, on a very special day, Jessica and Brad were at a Park and Ride lot in Glastonbury, CT, meeting a load of dogs from the south. “We were with all of these people who were also waiting for their dogs to get off the bus,” Jessica says. Everyone was nervous.
The dogs were brought out, and Jessica and Brad got their first real-life meeting with Eva. “We were kneeling, and she jumped up on Brad’s shoulders almost like she was giving him a hug and licked his face clean,” Jessica recalls. “She then did the same thing to me. It’s like she knew we were hers and she was ours.”
Eva’s prison stint was over, and she was getting her second chance, heading for what has become her forever home.