Recently, I heard about a program with the corny name of
“Puppies Behind Bars.” But that’s the only silly aspect of this great endeavor.
It works like this: Eight-week-old puppies are given to prison inmates to keep as their own for 16 months. During that time, each dog lives with the prisoner 24/7 and is rigorously trained to follow a huge variety of commands. Then the dog is transferred to another facility, where professional trainers take over. Eventually, the animal becomes either part of a canine bomb-sniffing unit or a helper for those with disabilities, such as wounded Iraqi war veterans.
Gloria Gilbert Stoga, who started this program in New York in 1997, saw a need and reached out. This small step has benefited hundreds of people. The prisoners learn responsibility and the value of caring for another being. Veterans and others who receive the service dogs gain a valuable partner to assist them in life. Law-enforcement professionals receive another tool to make our communities safer. And the dogs have the opportunity to push the envelope on their natural talents and abilities.
So why am I telling you this story?
Because 2009 was a terrible year, and 2010 isn’t looking much better. None of us can control unemployment figures, the credit crunch and the ongoing drop in home values. But we can control the attitude we bring to our lives each day.
We can reach out. We can make our world, our industry and our families better and, perhaps by doing so, we can strengthen ourselves. This won’t make the times we live in any easier, but it will provide solace to help us endure what lies ahead.
My resolution for 2010 is to pay more attention to the needs of others. Whether it’s carrying my disabled neighbor’s groceries or giving time to charity, I believe this is the moment we all should look around and find ways to help.