South Fork Forest Camp (SFFC) recently partnered with the Joys of Living Assistance Dogs (JLAD), a non-profit organization dedicated to training and raising service dogs. Their mission is to provide skilled, devoted service dogs to support and assist persons living with disabilities – creating cohesive teams focused on building a life of greater freedom and independence. The adults in custody (AICs) train them, and then the dogs are placed with individuals that need them.
Last week, SFFC received their first set of eight puppies who will be rotated through SFFC four at a time. These dedicated AICs at SFFC put their hearts and souls into these dogs, and clearly the dogs do wonders for these individuals too. Below are testimonials from AICs talking about how the program has, and will, impact their lives.
I’m the proud clerk for the JLAD program here at South Fork Forest Camp. I got to start by saying that this program is… well pretty damn impressive. To just sit back, listen and read about all the stories and wonderful adventures these amazing service animals go on after they graduate this outstanding program. And What great lengths they go to just to ensure comfort and stability to their recipients. It’s well enough to make a grown man cry. Especially for us as incarcerated individuals, this program shows us that positive change is alive in all walks of life. I myself, carry heavy burdens for what has led me to my time in ODOC. Some days are easier than others, but what makes your time more rewarding is to completely devote yourself fully, to changing for the better. Especially for us as incarcerated individuals, this program shows us that positive change is alive in all walks of life. I must say that being involved in this program is probably some of the most heartwarming and passionate work I could ever do. I want my friends, family, and even the world to know that even though I’m locked up I did the very best I could to invest into not just myself but to society as a whole.
Thank you to JLAD and ODOC for giving me an opportunity.Robert Stanley
The SFFC JLAD program is a unique experience that brings an opportunity to be able to directly impact the community in a positive way through my training and work with these dogs. It creates a level of passion and connection not only with the dogs but with my peer group as a whole. Furthermore, it provides an environment for skill building and personal growth that cannot be found anywhere else at DOC. I am very grateful for this rare and amazing opportunity; it will resonate with me for the rest of my life.Nick Schmit
South Fork Forest Camp is very honored to be part of the JLAD program. This program has already brought unity and a sense of purpose to the community. For me personally, I am very grateful and honored that I get to be part of something that is life-changing worldwide. Having read the personal stories from these recipients really changes your outlook and gives understanding of just how impactful and life-changing this is. To be a part of this and give it back to the world in such a positive way and such a meaningful blessing. I wake up each day with purpose, and hope that I get to change lives for the better. Thank you to everyone who has made this possible, and to all that has had a hand in paving the way for this program. And a special thank you to Mrs. St. Peter for allowing us to be a part of it.Chet Schisler
The JLAD dog program means a lot to me. It gives me the chance to learn positive skills I will use before and after I parole to help people in need with disabilities. There aren’t many programs in DOC that offer the most useful skills like what JLAD has, so I’m glad to be putting my time incarcerated in good use. I plan to use this knowledge to help people in the long run when I parole. I see the potential this program has, and it is amazing that I am part of this positive change. I’m very thankful for Joy St. Peter and her staff for giving us AICs the opportunity to help us and the community. I never fully realized how much certain people needed these dogs until recently. I’m so excited to put a smile on their faces.Daniel Anderson
My name is Johnathan Savelich. I am here at South Fork Forest Camp. I have worked here with the reforestation crew and have fought fires for two fire seasons. We now have the JLAD program, and I am super excited to be a part of it. I have made some bad choices in my life and have spent the last 61/2 years in prison away from my family. South Fork has given me many opportunities to work and help give back. The JLAD program by far has been the most meaningful opportunity to me. I know that with being part of the program I will be giving people in need hope. These dogs will help people with disabilities get through things in life that I have taken for granted. To me this program means giving back and helping someone in need. I will take this program very serious so that the dogs I train may go on to help someone’s life easier so that they may enjoy their life. I am thankful for this opportunity!Johnathan Savelich
Hello, my name is Justin and I have been given the opportunity to participate in the South Fork JLAD program. This program trains dogs to become service animals and will assist and enrich people’s lives in many ways. When asked a simple question yesterday of what being in the JLAD program means to me it took some time for me to answer. Being able to personally influence another person’s life in a positive and meaningful way through my work and training with these dogs’ means the world to me. I am very excited for the opportunity to learn and grow as an individual through my experience in this program. I am also thankful for the individuals who brought this program together and the great group of guys I get to work with.Justin Barthell
For me JLAD is a way for me to give back to the community in a positive way, and to affect someone’s life in a meaningful way. It is also an opportunity for me to grow and mature as a human being.Jack Marvin
JLAD – is to me the opportunity to give back to my community. To help a disabled person live a better life, is a great reward for me. I will also learn a lot by working as a member of a team. The responsibility of caring for something besides myself will also give a great meaning and purpose to my prison stay. As a whole it is great for my rehabilitation.Ronald Selby
In response to the possibility of a dog program coming to South Fork Forest Camp, I implore a moment of your time to tell you the following. My name is Naythan Olney, and I have only just recently arrived here at South Fork Forest Camp. The change from Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution to here at South Fork is immense. It’s easy to see the opportunity that this facility can and does provide to AICs. Coming from a man who has been incarcerated several times. I feel a responsibility and duty to describe a brief overview of the impacts and improvements the dog program at EOCI has made within me. As a child, like many other AIC, my life was insecure and traumatic. From a young age I witnessed from those closest to me drug use and criminal behaviors. As expected by a child molded from these actions, I began to mirror what I had watched and learned by using drugs and displaying inappropriate behaviors. Soon my actions and way of thinking landed me in the court system. Rather than providing me a way to rehabilitate and reeducate myself, it instead disposed of me. In doing so it jaded my outlook on being incarcerated. I believed there was nothing for me other than prison! Incarcerated at EOCI, I happened to be housed in a cell, which overlooked AICs training dogs in a small, fenced yard. Each day my curiosity grew. I would watch the behaviors of the dogs and the AICs side by side and I could “feel” the positivism that was happening! From time-to-time Joys of Living Assisted Dogs would bring the dogs, with their AIC trainer, to general population so that we could get a chance to learn about the program. As soon as I interacted and witnessed the energy and joy the dogs brought I knew I wanted to be a part of the program. I learned that the requirements of the program were eighteen months clear conduct, display of good communication and respect with prison and program staff, along with a desire to learn. Fully aware of my past behaviors it took me a moment to align my thought process in a way that I could succeed at the requirements of the program. The positive emotions I experienced with interacting with the dogs stuck with me. They enabled me to achieve the clear conduct and other requirements, to be accepted in the program. Upon starting the program, I quickly realized that my decision to participate was absolutely the right one! The atmosphere of the program such as learning as a group and setting others up for success was something completely new to me. Embarrassingly, I admit, my lack of living up to my responsibilities in life to this point, were quite profound. That quickly changed when I was responsible day and night for the dog that I was in charge of training. The love and companionship the service dog provided has changed my life! Responsibilities such as training commands and behaviors gave me a deep insight into my own. It was apparent that dogs develop bad behaviors, not because they are “bad”, but because they do not know any better. They have to be nurtured and taught appropriate behaviors to correct or overcome inappropriate ones. I learned that it takes a lot of work over a prolong amount of time, but with persistence the bad behaviors are overridden with proper ones. This experience has allowed me to have deep insight into myself in more ways than I can describe! The dog program has provided a foundation upon which I can start to correct and replace my own behaviors instilled in me. It has allowed me to see not only the negative behaviors within myself that need to be corrected, more importantly it has provided me with the courage to see and recognize my own self-worth. The ability to participate in this program has given me the confidence to regain control of my life and steer it in a direction. I now know will be advantageous to myself and those who are close to me. I now know I can be a participating father who not only looks forward to the fun times but also all the responsibilities that come with being a father, and member of my family. I admit I still have a lot of work to do. The profound point however is that the JLAD Program is what changed the direction I was headed and laid the foundation of my future! Like a service dog I too am a work in progress! Since applying myself since entry into the program, I have not received any disciplinary action in DOC. I was also able and accepted to come to South Fork Forest Camp where I continue my rehabilitation, as I approach my release date. If this program is approved to be implemented at South Fork I would be more than willing to apply the knowledge that I have gained in any way I can to help get the program not only started, also thriving too! I know that the dog program provides stability and discipline to AICs. I also know that the change it has inspired in me is lasting and will impact my way of thinking for the rest of my life.