A new prison program just started in Tammany Parish in the beginning of October. I'm super excited to visit the facility, particularly because Bill has said the Tammany Parish prison wants their Big House to Your House program to be the best of all the LA prison systems. It sounds like that's Tammany Parrish prison's m.o. in general, which is a little humorous. If you watch the video (hint, hint) you can tell the facilities are pretty nice, even if the inmate's pants look like they're straight out of The Three Stooges. Seriously, I have to talk to them about those pants. Anyway, they only have 3 C.A.T.S. (Canine Assessment Training Staff) in the program now, but everyone thinks it will grow very quickly, and it will. They're looking to add a dog grooming station so the inmates can get certified as professional dog groomers. This is also the first program to have inmates train a veteran on how to be a C.A.T., so essentially, veterans will start training their own personal companions as well as other dogs for more veterans. If you know anything about the suicide rate of our veterans, you know how important dogs can be to their psychological well-being. This program's reach continues to grow and spin off into more amazing directions. Every time I hear something new, I shake my head when I think about reading my Twitter feed...in Denver...in the middle of the night...a year ago this month...and seeing the post from channel 4 NOLA (I think it was channel 4) with a report on Bill and his program. The story of how we came to be is so surreal, and I think it's going to eventually take me into the next phase of my career in animal and public service.
But, that's not why I'm writing now. I'm writing to share information on the organizations I partner with and support, either with financial resources, design resources or simply by volunteering. And maybe if someone is reading this, they will look into them too and decide to help out where they can. As much as I hate social media, blogging...vlogging....tweeting, twating...facebooking (never!), I know that to keep this to myself in a vacuum does a disservice to the animals I help and the other people who help them. Besides, I know a friend in Denver who read this once, as well as my dog walker here in NOLA, so you never know. Warren Buffet, are you out there? On with the links:
That video I mention above? Here's where you can find it. There are 2 tv reports on the T.Parish program. One link features one of my photos (cool!) and the other features the veteran I mentioned. I won't tell you which one is which. If you have 6 minutes, and you do, you can watch them both. Feel free to peruse the rest of the site, as I designed it entirely. That was part of my original deal when I first talked to Bill: Let me photograph the prisoners and the dogs and I'll redesign your website. We're all really happy with the results.
When I first decided to move to New Orleans, which was many years before I actually moved here, I started following a lot of NOLA orgs on Twitter to tap into the city. One of those orgs was ARNO (Animal Rescue New Orleans). They are a no-kill shelter run by a few awesome gals and tons of volunteers. I'm now one of them. When I first started volunteering there, my friends asked if I was doing design work for them. Ha! I was cleaning cages and runs with pee and shit and slowly learning how the dogs managed in their limited environment. Then, I did get an idea for where I could help with design. Their kennel tags were hand-written, and just had basic information about the dog. Name, sex, age, breed. I thought, how boring, and if I was visiting I might think of going somewhere else for a dog. So I suggested making kennel tags for the dogs. See some examples here.
I try to engage visitors by incorporating pop culture into the dog's personality, and so far, I think it's increased the adoption rate. The dog who had been there the longest time before I arrived got adopted after I made her a tag. So...yeah.
Late night iPhone reading strikes again, thanks to Dogster. This is the first rescue I ever got involved with, and it's the closest to my heart. I've never met the people there. I've never seen the facilities. Shit, I've never been to South Carolina. But, this woman and her mission to help severely abused dogs....and I mean severely...is unparalleled. The first dog I donated to was an adorable dalmatian mix puppy who, they assessed, had been drug behind a car for at least a few miles. He was found in a dumpster by garbage men, barely alive. Since then, I read about all of the cases she helps with her own money. This woman, Jennifer, will go to the most extraordinary measures to save dogs in need. I sometimes think about how often I've used the word "extraordinary" in my life, and it's not many, if at all. She is truly a saint walking among us, and this is from an atheist. I give what I can when I can, and I've dedicated a portion of any PayPal invoice payments to her cause, but it will never be enough. Every day there's more.
Wow, this turned out to be quite a screed! Could scotch and bourbon be to blame? Probably. But, if it helps what I think is an important message, then I say, Drink On.