Three retired racing greyhounds -- Dillinger, Rosy and Gordy -- made the long drive from Florida to the Putnamville facility (PCF) to meet their new handlers.
Anxiously awaiting their arrival were offenders Aaron Bell, 29, Crawfordsville; Steven Hartzell, 35, and Harold Johnson, 48, both of Indianapolis; Charles Garrison, 43, Evansville; Travis Fitch, 20, Angola, and Antonio Munos, 39, Fort Wayne.
The three dogs and six offenders are the first participants in the facility's new Prison Greyhound Program.
Upon arrival, dogs and handlers spent some one-on-one time playing and getting to know one another.
"We like to see how the offenders interact with the dogs before we pair them," Prison Greyhound Program president Mary Louden said. "In most cases, the dogs choose who they want to be with."
After a great deal of hand licking and romping, the dogs were taken to the handlers' housing unit where the dogs received their first bath and were shown their new sleeping quarters. An evening feed, one last romp in the "dog yard" and it was lights out for the program's first four-legged friends.
Prison Greyhounds is a non-profit organization that partners retired greyhounds with offender handlers who train and socialize the ex-racers.
Once the dogs have completed a three-month interactive program inclusive of care, feeding, first aid and training, the greyhounds are put up for adoption.
"The offenders were carefully selected for the program based upon stringent criteria that restricted violence or animal cruelty in their current or past criminal history, as well as, other criteria that had to be met," PCF Superintendent Stanley Knight said.
"We take the responsibility of their care and safety seriously and are glad to have the opportunity to offer this type of program at the facility," Knight added.
During the course of the program the offenders and dogs will attend weekly sessions designed to help the greyhounds transition from the life of racing into loving family members. Having offenders as handlers evokes a sense of compassion and unconditional love within the offender and promotes rehabilitation through the dog-human bond.
Mary and Jeff Louden, president and vice president of the organization respectively, and program volunteers Mike and Teresa Hatton will provide instruction.
Facility case manager Ed Joslyn is the program coordinator, assisted by case manager Steve Shotwell.
Organization representatives report that there is a vast need for families to provide homes for the intelligent, loving greyhounds or the dogs will continue to sit in cages at race tracks with their careers over, face sale to laboratories or be euthanized.
Greyhounds have companioned pharaohs and inspired artists throughout history. If you are considering providing a home to these ex-racers, you are invited to visit www.prisongreyhounds.org.