It has been a while but anyone who is caring for someone with this horrendous disease knows, sometimes it takes all you have to get through the day! Which then turns into weeks then before you know it months have gone by, and you have no idea how that happened.
Loretta and myself have known each other since 1972, we grew up together, she was 14 and I was 15. You might say we where made for each other, and I really do think that is true. I am starting this article this way to give a bit of a back drop on what Zorro the Dog (and I use that word lightly as I think he forgets this sometimes and demands he is human) has found himself coming into.
Like any relationship trust and friendship is important and with Zorro this took place very quickly. Within a few weeks he trusted us and with those big hazel eyes, looked into ours and declared that we where friends. It felt like a seamless grafting into our family and the relationship grows as I write this. I call Zorro a friend because he likes hanging out and nothing is too much bother for him. Everywhere we go he wants to go, and on the occasion that we leave him at home, when we get back he gives us a good sniff so he can find out where we have been. It has been just over seven months now since we brought Zorro into our home and he has become part of us now, so much so that we could not imagine life without him.
A few months back we had the opportunity to take Zorro back to where he was trained from a pup – what an experience that was. We found ourselves standing in the car park of a high security prison with no idea of what we would find inside. Zorro was acting like he new this place and was almost pulling into the reception area. As we entered the reception I noticed a dog at the end of a corridor with a women doing all she could to keep this dog running down to greet us. With this I also became aware that Zorro was pulling me and whimpering a bit at this same dog! I looked more closely at the dog at the end of the corridor and it was like looking at Zorro, but then the logistics of getting passed the reception took over. Photographs had to be taken, fingerprints also. This all had to be done in order for us to go inside the prison, however Zorro was attracting some attention from the prison guards who all knew him and were calling his name and commenting on how he had grown so much. Truly we where with a VID and there were no paw prints or photos needed for Zorro. He was known and loved by all and from everyone we met, we where left with no doubt that Zorro was a star and missed by all. After we had done all we had needed to do to get passed the reception, I inquired about the other dog and found out that this was Zorro’s brother and that when we got into the prison we would also meet Zorro’s sister. A real homecoming for Zorro and a family reunion, what a day this will be I thought.
So as we made our way through all the locked doors we really did not know what to expect. We arrived where Zorro was trained and he saw his brother and sister. To say he got excited would be an understatement. The trainers where all there and all the guards paid more attention to Zorro than anything else. Then we met the the man who had trained Zorro and you could tell there was a special bond between them. Zorro was excited and so was he. There where speeches made, food, tea and Zorro had all the Pig ears he could eat. The incredible thing was to see these men who had done something to be put into this maximum security prison, with these dogs so well trained that they will make such a big difference in peoples lives all over the country. Men who where now putting back rather than taking, and as I got to speak with a few of them, their delight in doing this program was almost pinned on their chest like a medal of honor. It makes you see that the dog program is so multi-faceted and will run deep in society for years to come. We really do owe a big debt to the men and women who run this program and the men who are using their time in prison to give back. I know for one as I talked with them, that training these dogs has had a profound influence on their lives. They will not come out of there the same men they walked in as. Just a foot note to all this, Zorro was the first one to come back and the only dog from that program on the day. I know it is hard and a long way to go but I just urge people to make the effort to let them see the fruit of their labour. If you can’t get there send a photo with thanks and a story or two just so they know that what they are doing is working and that their lives do matter, and what they are doing is life changing. let us not forget our K9 friends who greet us in the morning like we have been way for years, and that everyday and all day just want to be around us and go everywhere with us!
It started in a prison and continues in our homes.
By Malcolm Baxter
The views expressed in these blogs are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily the views of HammondCare or the Australian Government.