We’ve had many opportunities to spread the word about the SCP program over the past year and are grateful to the program for giving Ripley a fresh start.—Ripley’s owner
Just over a year ago, Andy and I had the special privilege of observing one rotation of the Second Chance Pups program. Ripley was one of eight dogs in the thirty-third rotation of Second Chance Pups, a program that pairs inmates at the Nebraska State Penitentiary with unwanted dogs in need of training. From the start, Ripley’s handler realized that she’d need a lot of work. She was slow to bond with anyone, everything was new and scary to her, and she didn’t know how to play. During training sessions, Ripley was initially clumsy, lazy, and stubborn. Ripley’s handler would need to teach her both socialization and obedience skills, but that’s not unusual for the dogs who come to SCP.
Despite the challenges, by the third week her handler had taught her to work by his side, as well as “to perform ‘sit’ and down’ on command. The two had also made a bargain. Ripley’s handler told Ripley he’d just train her once a day—in the morning—and then he’d leave her alone. “With her she can burn out real quick and she’s going to go right down into pout mode. So I just slow down my commands and do a little bit more… just walking… and then do a command here and there, and it helps.”
What follows are my two interviews with Ripley’s owner. The first was shortly after Ripley was adopted, and the second shorter one was a couple weeks ago
FIRST INTERVIEW: APRIL 2016
ALLISON: Why did you contact SCP for a dog?
RIPLEY’S OWNER: Although SCP has been in existence since 2002, I wasn’t familiar with the organization until one day, somewhat fortuitously or perhaps divinely, about a year ago. I’d occasionally stop at Cause for Paws to make or drop off a donation. On this particular day, a woman was in the shop with her dog—a beautiful, cream-colored male lab named Colt. I admired him for his manners, his beauty, and his sweet personality. Because I was so struck by him, I asked the owner if she’d please tell me about her dog. She proceeded to tell me that she’d adopted this dog through the SCP program and that he was the “best dog” she’d ever had! I told her that I wasn’t familiar with the program and so she proceeded to tell me all about it. That evening, I told my husband about this beautiful dog and about the program. We wondered if we might ever come across a similar dog.
ALLISON: What appealed to you about Ripley?
RIPLEY’S OWNER: I began following SCP on Facebook and would see the new rotations of dogs posted. I noticed “Ripley,” a dog that resembled Colt. She was described as a 4-year-old English lab. I immediately emailed SCP and they told me that indeed she was from the same breeder as Colt, the dog that I had admired. She’d been a breeder dog, living on the mud floor of a kennel for most of her life. The owner contacted SCP and asked if they would place her for adoption.
To back up a bit, our family really enjoys dogs, and we’ve always had them in our lives. My husband was raised with black labs and I was raised with a Samoyed. We’ve owned basset hounds and pugs, and are current owners of a 4-year-old black female pug named Ling Ling. She adores all dogs and all people. I think we imagined that we’d adopt another pug, but when Ripley appeared we felt compelled to pursue adoption through SCP. In my thinking, if Ripley was similar to the Colt, she’d be an incredible dog—calm, smart, beautiful, and in need of a new home.
ALLISON: Tell me about meeting Ripley for the first time.
RIPLEY’S OWNER: After contacting SCP about Ripley, we were encouraged to fill out an adoption form. We did that and heard from Melissa Ripley that we could meet Ripley. (We loved the coincidence of the name, and chose not to rename Ripley, in honor of Melissa who is a devoted and faithful friend to all animals.)
We set up a meeting at the penitentiary. We brought our Ling Ling to determine if the dogs would get along. Going into this, we told ourselves that we were very happy with our current situation—one dog—and that if things didn’t feel right, we weren’t going to “rock the boat” and bring in a new dog. We said—perhaps selfishly—things would have to be almost perfect for us to do it.
When Ripley met Ling, she gave a small growl at her as Ling is very forward and energetic. I think she was a bit overwhelming for Ripley that first time. At Melissa’s urging, we proceeded outside and the dogs appeared to get along well. Ripley plopped herself in my husband’s lap and was very friendly to us. She was very calm and pleasant. She had just been bathed and looked lovely!
ALLISON: How did SCP prepare you for the process of adopting Ripley?
RIPLEY’S OWNER: Melissa was sweet to answer so many of our questions. We told her we were interested and Melissa told us that Ripley would be available to come to our home for a visit, so that we might get a better idea of how things might work. We scheduled a visit for a week or so later, and Melissa (and her husband) brought Ripley to our home.
The weekend went very well and we did a lot of talking on our end. There was something special about Rip—those beautiful eyes and a sweet soul. Ling found her long lost sister, in Ripley! We told Melissa we wanted to adopt her! She ended up coming for an additional weekend before her adoption day of April 1. With each visit, it was harder to take her back to the program, but we were grateful for the love and training that she was receiving while there.
The graduation ceremony was so exciting, and we’d been counting the days until we could take Ripley “home!” It really felt like we were bringing home a new family member. We were filled with excitement, a sense of responsibility, and an obligation to support SCP and similar programs into the future.
ALLISON: Did you do anything to prepare your home for Ripley
RIPLEY’S OWNER: We were very prepared for the adoption. Melissa was an open book in terms of being accessible to answer questions. SCP provided us with a training video prior to adoption that also helped us feel more comfortable. The willingness of SCP to allow for home visits was extremely helpful too. We really got to know Ripley and it set us up for success.
Prior to the adoption, we purchased a crate/kennel where Ripley sleeps at night and when we are gone during the day. We purchased dog bowls, grooming brushes, dog food, a leash, and a collar. We also made an appointment at our Veterinarian for a physical exam about one week after the adoption. Ling Ling has her own kennel too and the two dogs share a “bedroom!” (I don’t work outside the home, so Ripley enjoys a lot of freedom in the house and in the yard. She spends very minimal time in the kennel!)
ALLISON: What do you think of the SCP program?
RIPLEY’S OWNER: My husband and I are very impressed with the SCP program. Melissa was our contact person and a great encourager to us. She was honest and straight forward. She was the only person we had contact with throughout the process; however, Ripley’s handler was very kind to send a handwritten note (several pages each time) with Ripley when she came for her weekend visits. It was very informational as to her needs and habits. We appreciated the input. The letters really allowed us to see the connection and the commitment between the dog and her handler. I’ve shared information about SCP with so many people who have never heard of the program. And Ripley herself is a great ambassador for the program as well!
SECOND INTERVIEW: APRIL 2017
RIPLEY’S OWNER: Ripley has now been with us for over a year and she’s delightful! She came to us with many wonderful qualities but she was also shy and often afraid and uncertain of new things—loud noises, cars passing on the street, and small children. Slowly and steadily over the past year, we’ve lived our lives with her and our sweet pug, Ling Ling. We’ve exposed her to the everyday occurrences of our lives—walks in the park, rides in the car, neighbors coming and going through the front door, and new dogs passing by outside.
Through all of this, Ripley has become more comfortable and now enjoys everything! She’s not only loves people, but she really enjoys the company of dogs and cats. Her personality is so pleasant—she loves to give kisses, cuddle on the couch, and still very happily sleeps the night away in her kennel. She really couldn’t be a more perfect dog; we feel so fortunate to have Ripley as part of our clan.
Written by Allison and Andy Frederick
Photographs by Andy Frederick
Read the next article in this series: Catching Up with Second Chance Pups: Willow
Read the previous article in this series: Graduation Day at Second Chance Pups