How many dogs have ever gone to Folsom State Prison? My hearing dog, Mack, a friendly 10 pound black poodle, has on numerous occasions.
I work in mental health, and one of our employees who chose street drugs instead of psychotropic drugs ended up in Folsom under the three strikes act. After a rigorous investigation, Mack and I are now listed as “approved visitors”. We go through the metal detector and show our picture IDs at various security points before we are let in. Once we get there, Mack is a huge hit with all the staff and especially with the inmates. Every time we’ve been to Folsom, an inmate comes and asks him to pet him. Some tell me it’s been 25 years since they saw a dog.
If you look closely enough at each disability, something positive can be found. In my case, my hearing loss qualified me for a hearing dog from the SPCA hearing dog program in San Francisco (sadly a program that has been discontinued). In this and similar programs, such as For example, at Dogs for Better Lives, “career change” dogs are trained to help people with significant hearing loss. Mack (full name, Mackey) is trained to lick my face when the alarm goes off in the morning and leads me to the phone or doorbell when they go off. (Unfortunately the trainers forgot Mack’s snooze alarm. When the buzzer sounds, it is. Lick, lick and lick – rise and shine, dear guard!)
My life changed dramatically when Mack joined. I’ve gone from being more isolated at home to being someone who doesn’t have enough hours in a day. Having him with me not only gives me a great sense of security, but also makes people aware of my hearing loss. This in turn encourages people around me to keep certain allowances in mind when trying to figure out what is being said.