We saw the bundled razors at the tops of all the fences, communicating to us the impossibility of anyone leaving this place. Once you go in, you stay in. We had never been to a real prison, only heard stories about it. As we opened the door which led to security check in, we saw a little sign that gave the rules on the dress code. Dress code in a prison? Oh yes!
Modesty is mandatory to visit prison...
1. Persons entering TDOC facilities should be encouraged to dress comfortably and in casual attire; however, they shall be expected to comply with the following basic dress requirements. Wardens may further define these requirements in local policy.
- Clothing shall fit in an appropriate manner. Clothing appearing to be too large or too small for the wearer, which creates obvious gaps or exposure, or would present a hazard to the wearer will be rejected by the shift supervisor.
- Visitors must wear undergarments. (Samples of undergarments deemed inappropriate are thongs and water brassieres.)
- Appropriate footwear to provide basic foot protection shall be required while on institutional grounds. Open toe shoes or sandals are permitted. Steel-toed shoes, shower shoes, and flip-flops, are prohibited.
- Shorts or skirts are permitted provided the leg is covered to within three inches above the knee in a standing position with the garment worn in the position in which it is intended to be worn.
2. The below listed types of clothing are specifically prohibited throughout the year:
- Garments manufactured from spandex or spandex-type fabrics
- Any clothing that is transparent or translucent in nature
- Sleeveless shirts and blouses
- Dresses or clothing exposing a bare chest or midriff
- Camouflage attire
- Worn or tattered clothing with holes
- Clothing with logos that contain pictures, slogans, or vulgarity, or contain signs or symbols of security threat groups (STG), or any clothing determined by the processing officer to be associated with any STG. The association may be made by color combination, designs, or logos affixed to the clothing, or the manner in which the clothing is worn.
- Splits in dresses or skirts that extend three inches above the knee, or slits which cause the entire dress or skirt to be above three inches above the knee, will not be permitted.
The guard handed my daughter and I each another pamphlet that we had to read and sign also. It was about conduct. We had to agree not to flirt or be too friendly with the inmates. If any forward behavior is noticed we had to agree to report that. I was kinda of at that point wondering why I was there with my 16 year old daughter and if it was the best idea to take her into this place. I was reassured that it would be fine and that it is just standard policy. In prison, it is against the law to flirt and dress sexy.
Just think about this for a second. This is how we woman ought not act. So then, why on earth do so many women behave in such unseemly ways. It opened up a lot of conversation at home about this with my family. Has our culture truly strayed this far from decency and propriety? Apparently so.
We were visiting the prison because we were meeting the potential service dogs that are being trained at this prison. If a prisoner has exemplary behavior, he can apply for a position as a dog trainer. The position can be taken away permanently if they violate any rules, so it is a high privilege for them.
We had to show our photo I.D. and be searched. They told us that people try to bring drugs to the inmates. They pat you down, you get scanned with lasers for weapons. The whole nine yards.
The gals from the service dog company were ready to take us back and they come regularly so their relaxed nature soothed our worries for entering the prison walls. We were in good hands now. They gave Molly a puppy to hold which made the walk back very sweet for her. I think we went down several different halls and through several different doors that looked strong enough to hold back a herd of elephants. I was worried to touch anything, thinking it was wired to shock you. I even asked the guard if it was all hot. He giggled and said no.
We came to a large room with tables and chairs. All the chairs had about one roll of masking tape wound around each of the four bottoms of the legs. Even the tables had this big wad of masking tape around the bottom of the legs. I imagined that they put that there so you can’t grab the chair and hit someone with the end of the leg. I bet you have to think of everything because anything can be used as a weapon where there are no weapons allowed. My mind just went wild thinking of the day that they decided to put the tape on there after some guy picked up one of the chairs and smashed someones scull in with the metal leg. Must have been brutal and barbaric. I can only imagine.
We were being looked at by the couple of big men mopping and sweeping the floors. They would just stare at us while trying to clean up the room we were in. I leaned over and whispered into Molly’s ear, “See the guys cleaning…they are prisoners.” Molly looks at me like she has been there before and says, “I know.” I figured it was a sort of homeschool lesson and I was her teacher for a moment, trying to observe our surroundings as a lesson to be learned. I was half ways distracted by all the things I was observing yet very excited to meet the service dogs for the first time.
The ladies we were with explained that they will bring several dogs in and see how they act with Molly. Just then, a little yellow lab pranced in the room with his long tail wagging. He jumped on the chair beside me and it seemed as though he had a lot of puppy pep in him. They called him Haus. He was after the treats on the table. They gave him one command and he stopped on a dime. He did everything they asked him and was rewarded with a little tiny treat nugget that they had been holding in their pockets this whole time.
They called Molly over and filled her hand with treats and told her to sit on the floor. The dog wove around her with its leash until she told him to sit. He sat and she handed him a treat. The trainers told her to hold out her hand like she would be saying stop to a person, flat out in front facing the dog. She did and the dog immediately took his nose and popped her in the middle of the palm of her hand like a fist bump. It was cute. This went on for several minutes.
They told her to walk around the room with Haus and see how he follows her with the leash and the treats. He was on her like a duck on a June bug. I could hear her giggle. What a glorious sound to my ears.
After they felt the dog had enough time to meet Molly, they brought in the next dog. His name was Teddy. He was tall and lanky. His neck was long and his fur was pure white, and looked like the fleece of a newborn lamb. As he approached Molly, he freaked out and backed away abruptly. Everyone in the room was silent. We all looked on in wonder. Wondering why Teddy looked scared of her. I know I am kind of a newbie with learning about scent dogs, but my first thought was that it could either be the scent of our dog from home who is in heat, or the scent of her blood sugars.
I had the scent on me from the dog in heat back home, little miss Lucy girl our big hairy Airedale. So why did the dog not freak out about me. NO, it was her sugars. We had to think back to what happened as we rolled into the prison parking lot. As I recalled, Molly left home with a high blood sugar and she took a shot to bring it down. The only trouble was that she was going down rapidly. I mean it was going down so fast that she needed to eat something right before we walked in so that it would not get too low.
That rapid move in sugars gives off HUGE pheromones to a scent dog. So our theory was that Teddy was silently communicating, “Whoa, something is not right with that girl!” Which I saw as a good sign. We are getting the service dog so that they sense blood sugar changes, so I was actually really excited to see that reaction. You have to remember, I grew up at a dog kennel. I groomed many dogs, handled and trained many dogs, so I can read a dog. You have to, when you are working with them. It can save your arm. Or leg. You have to be able to read whether a dog is happy or scared, if the dog is approachable or if you better use caution when reaching into the cage. I saw something in Teddy. I was trying to read his mind. He knew there was something not right. For a few minutes he would not approach her, you could see he was trying to process the smells coming off her. And after a few treats he was calmed down and sitting by Molly’s side. This dog was much more laid back but eager to serve.
Same drill, Molly walked around and around with Teddy until the handlers took him back and brought out the next dog. Her name was Angel. She was a fluffy dog with 3 inch eye lashes. She pranced around but would not come near Molly at first either. She seemed rather shy, but again, if she was scenting her, she was trying to see what that smell was all about. Angel did end up taking a treat out of Molly’s hand eventually but would not sit down beside her. One of the ladies from the company told me a little on her history. Angel is a very sweet but shy girl. She puts people off because she bonds tightly to one handler and gets nervous to be separated from him. They never pick her because she doesn't warm up to anyone the first time she meets them.
As quick as Angel came in, she was gone. Molly was faced with a decision. She had to pick the one that she felt bonded to her the most. Of course it is a big decision, yet they wanted her to say the first one that came to her mind that took to her the best. She said Haus because he did not hesitate, yet she did not have the chance to find out why the other two hesitated.
They brought in the two prisoners that trained Haus. They both started sharing all the things that Haus will do. He will do laundry, get the mail, ring bells, get her tester, get something for her low blood sugar out of the fridge, trained to alert others if she is not responding, and much more. It was pretty exciting to see that dog in action. Very smart animal.
The whole way home, she just kept asking me if she made the right choice and I said she needed to pick the one that she felt a bond with like they said. She asked if she was locked in with Haus and that she was not sure about it. I told her that we will call a few dog trainers in the family, to get a second opinion, and unbiased opinion.
The first call was to my father, who owns the dog kennel and who also trains hunting dogs. I have a lot of respect for my father’s opinion. He asked what breed the three were and I filled him in on all that I observed with their behavior. Based on maintenance alone, he told me NOT to pick the labor doodles. He said keeping up with the grooming and brushing will be a huge chore. They are what you would call high maintenance for grooming. The lab would be the easiest to care for because it can’t get knotted up and it will not require grooming.
My mother chimes in because they were on speaker phone, she says, “You can’t have them worry about grooming a dog, they need to pick the dog that Molly feels a connection with.” Molly immediately said “I want Angel. She is shy just like me. I don’t bond with people the first time I see them, it takes me time. But once I bond I am a loyal friend. I know that she would bond with me, and she would be even more loyal to me. The other dog that wagged his tail and visited everyone, he will love all people, but Angel, she will only be comfortable with me and that is what I need. I need an angel watching over me.”
When she said it that way, I was like, wow. That is perfect. I told the company about her change of mind and they told us that Angel is not for Molly. The fact that she is so scared to be away from her handler, could present issues. So we are not sure what will happen. But we trust God and we know that God has a plan. I am not worried as I leave it in His hands. If she is to have Haus, God will make a bond so tight with the two of them that he will live, breath, or die for her protection. And if God has Teddy or Angel for Molly, He created those animals and knows how they tick, so I am confident that they will surprise the handlers in these few short days and they will see that they are the perfect fit.
I asked my friend Mike Hoff, who is disabled and a diabetic, and he used to train diabetic alert dogs. His first inclination would be for Teddy because of how he acted. He said that is a good scent dog right there. He reacted. It takes time for a dog to know the scent of their person, but once they do, they are know just what to do. He told me that Teddy and Angel were just trying to figure out that crazy scent. I thought that was pretty good.
We are just very thankful that soon Molly will have her service dog as an extra layer of protection. And to all those that contributed toward the large fee it takes to get one, a great big thank you! The next phase of the game is to do the boot camp coming in January. Molly and I will be in training for 10 days at the prison with the handlers to be sure the dog will be able to serve and protect our daughter in every way.
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