From our Summer 2021 Newsletter, which you can read here!
Black Dog Animal Rescue, Cheyenne and Statewide
Auggie seemed hopeless. The stray, a miniature Australian shepherd, was deaf, and his deafness had made him anxious and high-strung. The family that found him believed he was untrainable.
Auggie was trainable, though. He just hadn’t found the right handler yet. That handler turned out to be an inmate at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington.
For nine weeks, Auggie lived in the Correctional Institution. He kept a regular routine, learned good manners, and received agility training. Inmate and dog learned to work with each other through a unique system of hand signals, and Auggie excelled.
The training Auggie got from his inmate handler was his first step toward a bright future. This opportunity came through the Preparing Adoptable Companion K9s (PACK) Program. PACK is a partnership between Black Dog Animal Rescue (BDAR) and the Correctional Institution. It enables inmates and dogs to build a relationship and improve each other’s quality oflife. While
the dogs get ready for their forever homes, the inmates learn new skills and contribute to an important program.
Through PACK and other foster programs, BDAR can continue to offer alternatives to shelters and euthanasia for animals with complex needs. BDAR brings staff, volunteers and foster handlers together to give animals like Auggie a chance at a good home.
Placing animals with hosts, whether inmates or in homes, “replicates a real-life home for pets …. It’s their native environment,” says executive director Britney Wallesch.
Yet before BDAR, no such program existed in Wyoming. Britney remembers “that there was a need in Wyoming that wasn’t being met.” She worked hard to sell community members in Cheyenne and across the state on the good an organization like BDAR could do for cats and dogs that needed a home, and built a nonprofit that has helped thousands of animals. Recently, BDAR has created an agency endowed fund with the Wyoming Community Foundation, giving the organization ongoing security.
Now, Britney observes, BDAR is truly embraced by the community. BDAR’s PACK Program is also thriving and building a legacy. Inmate handlers have begun training new members of prison staff in dog handling, so that those staff members can in turn train future inmate handlers.
The PACK program gave Auggie’s story a happy ending. The skills he learned from his handler made him so adoptable that he was sought after by several families. He now lives happily with a new family in Wyoming, and by all accounts, Auggie is thriving.