Monday, November 23, 2009

Thankfulness. . .

What an amazing time of year to have a paws4people graduation! It never ceases to amaze me that each visit to the prison renews a new understanding and appreciation for the dogs, inmates, trainers, and clients. It takes all of these things to create paws4people and the legacy it is creating.

Graduation was an emotional (as always) and exciting time. It was especially interesting for me since I actually got to graduate with LILLY! For those of you who don't know LILLY will be working in my classroom early 2010. We are all very excited and have anxiously been awaiting her arrival. The hope is that she will touch as many lives, if not more, than LANIE with a tad bit less enthusiasm. LANIE fully did her job while she worked and I can say I am proud of what she has done. She just needs a replacement with a little less energy. :)

As you can see from the picture LILLY was a little tired after graduation. She got to stay with us at the hotel on Saturday night and I must add that it was super hard to say goodbye on Sunday morning. I can't wait until she is here in NC for good.

I was informed by Kyria that she would like for me to give closing remarks at graduation. Speaking in front of a large group of people is not my thing, but I figured it was the least I could after receiving one of these amazing dogs. Below is a copy of my closing remarks. I think it totally sums up not only graduation, but remembering to be thankful during this week of Thanksgiving.

As I sat in the graduation ceremony at Alderson yesterday the words of SADIE as told by her trainer spoke volumes about what we experienced today.

The words that sum up everyone’s involvement in this process are “you have to understand where I am coming from”. These words apply to the dogs, program inmates, p4p volunteers and staff, the staff here at USP Hazelton and the recipients of the dogs.

The dogs have their own stories, pasts, experiences, and triumphs that have shaped them into the amazing animals that will go on to change the lives of those they come into contact with. When they leave their trainers here they will go to their new families hoping they understand where they have come from.

The p4p volunteers and staff as well as the USP Hazelton staff have also been shaped by experiences throughout their lives that have influenced them to dedicate their lives to promoting positive change in others. The p4p volunteers and staff understand the importance of these dogs and the magnitude of the difference they can make. The staff here at USP Hazelton at some point recognized something within themselves that they knew would be beneficial to the men and women during their incarceration.

I would assume that the program inmates would also like for us all to understand where they are coming from. Many have been victims, some have victimized others, and all have made decisions they would like to change. Their lives have taken a turn that most of them would have never imagined. The dogs these individuals have so selflessly dedicated themselves to understand where they are coming from and accept them for who they are not the choices they have made.

As I stand here today as a recipient of LILLY I want to let you know where I am coming from. I have been an observer, someone moved emotionally by seeing others beam with excitement and shine with the promise of a life made better by a precious dog put on this earth to bring happiness.

Today I am coming from a place of thankfulness. I am thankful that because of everyone here today LILLY will come to Cox Mill Elementary School for a job she is well equipped to do because of the hard work that has been poured into her.

I challenge all of you to leave here today and remember to consider where others are coming from. Consider their experiences, talents, contributions and fears that have shaped them into the people they are. Remember that all of those involved in this training process have their own stories, none more valuable than another, and all vitally important to initiating positive change in another’s life.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!