Puppies Behind Bars Photographed by Michael Brian

 

Once I learned of the organization, Puppies Behind Bars, it only took me about two seconds flat to know I had to shoot with them. Here's a quick summary of who they are: 

"Puppies Behind Bars (PBB) trains prison inmates to raise service dogs for wounded war veterans and explosive detection canines for law enforcement. Puppies enter prison at the age of 8 weeks and live 24/7 with their inmate puppy-raisers for approximately 24 months. As the puppies mature into well-loved, well-behaved dogs, the inmates learn what it means to contribute to society rather than take from it. The dogs bring hope and pride to their raisers, and independence and security to those they serve"

Beyond all the obvious yummy traits dogs possess on the exterior, I always felt their capacity to heal and transform the human soul is their most powerful attraction! We've all experienced it at one time or another. It's the secret ingredient that brings a smile to our faces every time we're with a dog. It's tough to articulate into words, but you absolutely know it when you feel it…at least that's how it is with me. And dogs do it with such grace and dignity. 

The first time I saw a video clip of a prison inmate on the floor of his cell in tears from the love he felt from his dog, I was instantly hooked, and wanted to learn more about the organization that provided this groundbreaking opportunity to prison inmates.

I remember hearing an inmate say, "This is the first time in my life that I've ever felt loved". And I remember hearing another say, "If you would have told me 6 months ago that I would be laying on the floor of my cell, with my arms around my dog and tears in my eyes, I would have thought you had lost your mind". Stop and think about what powerful statements those are. The time, effort, discipline, and care the inmates provide for the dogs of the PBB program, in turn reward them with a sense of purpose and self worth…a first time experience for many in the lives of these emotionally and physically imprisoned human beings.

Once the inmates caught wind of the incredible benefits of the PBB program, a waiting list was quickly formed in order to be one of the few chosen to be gifted a puppyTo even be considered for the waiting list, an inmate needs to have an honorable conduct report. You can start to imagine the ripple effect of exemplary behavior the dogs commanded, even before they were ever partnered with their inmate trainers. The spiritual influence of dogs is a continually giving entity.

We have so much to learn from the animal kingdom. I feel privileged for the ability to have dogs as both companions and teachers in my life! - Michael Brian