Second Chance Pups is a special program and it’s great that you’re providing it with the exposure it deserves.—Shelli Hellman
This is my third new article in a series about Second Chance Pups, a program which pairs inmates at the Nebraska State Penitentiary with unwanted dogs in need of training. Since the program was launched in the fall of 2004, over 220 inmates have participated and about 350 dogs have found homes. At the core of the program is the philosophy of getting a redo on life. The handlers receive an opportunity to give back to society and contribute to a solution for the growing problem of unwanted pets. As for the dogs, behavior problems are one of the leading reasons people relinquish their pets to shelters, and the skills the dogs develop through the Second Chance Pups help them become adoptable. It’s a win for everyone, including the adoptive families who benefit from the previous training their new dogs have received. What follows is an interview with Shelli Hellman about the dog she adopted from Second Chance Pups in the fall of 2015.
ALLISON: How did you first hear of Second Chance Pups?
SHELLI: One of the motives of finally purchasing our first home was to get a dog. We’d been apartment dwellers with two cats for many years. I spent a lot of time combing pet finder, shelter sites, and Facebook looking for the right dog. As I’m sure you know, rescuers and adopters tend to form a lot of in-common friendships on Facebook. At the time, I had friends who had adopted from Nebraska No Kill and friends who fostered with Domesti-Pups. I’m not sure who ultimately shared the adoption posting from Second Chance Pups in my newsfeed, but I remember loving the description of the program. I emailed an app to Second Chance Pupsand began corresponding with Melissa.
ALLISON: Why did you pick Winter?
SHELLI: I didn’t want to choose a dog by appearance, but rather by personality, and so I described to Melissa what our house and lifestyle are like and how we wanted the dog to fit in to that. She suggested two dogs in the program that she thought would be perfect. One was Winter.
ALLISON: Tell me a little about Winter.
SHELLI: Winter is a mystery mutt: part boxer, part Rottweiler, and part unknown. At the time we inquired about her, she was two years old and her adoption picture (showing her in a multi-color feather boa) was too cute to pass up. In fact, when we were thinking of adopting her, I carried her picture on my phone and showed every friend that would hold still long enough to look at it. (Hey, I look at their baby pictures. Fair’s fair!) Winter is intelligent, silly, and sweet. Incredibly sweet.
ALLISON: What was it like to meet Winter?
SHELLI: It was a strange experience. I’d never been to the prison before and so that was a little intimidating. I waited by reception and someone brought her up to meet me. Winter was a timid dog. Very timid. She’s also super food-motivated. She spent the entire meet-and-greet on her belly crawling around looking for treats and not making much eye contact. I didn’t hold it against her though. I was intimidated too! We made enough of a connection that I decided to take her home for a weekend trial period. At home, she transformed quickly into a lovable and snuggly dog. By Monday, I’d signed the papers to make her mine.
ALLISON: What support did you receive from Second Chance Pups?
SHELLI: Melissa and Kim were great. As previously mentioned, Melissa worked to find the right dog for us, and the right home for Winter. Melissa checked in with me throughout the weekend and then came to my house to make it official that Monday.
ALLISON: Tell me a little about how Winter adjusted to your home.
SHELLI: Winter was extremely timid when we first brought her home. She belly-crawled a lot, shook at loud noises, and spent a lot of time in her open crate. We just took it easy. I’d sit near her and read or work and by Saturday evening she was really warming up to me! My fiance, who travels a lot for work, met her that Friday, left Saturday morning and was gone for a week. She became my dog in that week. When he came back they had to start their own getting-to-know-you process.
When Melissa and I were talking about dogs, she’d warned me that Winter was timid. She also told me that one of her own dogs was timid when she adopted her too, and that you’d never guess it if you met her today. So, we weren’t too worried. Melissa couldn’t have been more correct! A month later we had family in town for Thanksgiving and Winter jumped all over them at the front door and spent the rest of the weekend scamming them for food scraps. Today she is a silly and joyful dog.
ALLISON: How has life changed for you because of the adoption?
SHELLI: Life is just more fun. Being greeted by Winter with wiggles when you get home. Listening to her snort as she burrito rolls herself into her blanket. Watching her ears happily flop around when we go for jogs/walks. We started having friends with dogs come over for play dates. This led to dog-sitting for friends on occasion.
And that led to entering the world of fostering. First, for Second Chance Pups, now for Nebraska No Kill Canine Rescue. Fostering is not easy. The dogs are unknowns when they come to you and by the time they’re adopted they feel like part of the family. But every foster dog is a new friend for Winter and she is an amazing foster-sister. She probably does more for the dogs than we do. Adopting Winter has led to a noisier, dirtier, and happier household.
ALLISON: What do you think of the Second Chance Pups program?
SHELLI: It’s a great program. It’s mutually beneficial for the inmate handlers, the dogs, the adopters, and society. I know the guys in the program take great pride in, and get great joy from, the work they do. Dogs like Winter (black, adult, timid) might have been passed over repeatedly in a shelter. She would have done terribly in that environment and the statistics for dogs like her are not promising. We ended up with an incredible dog (with training!!) that we couldn’t imagine our lives without. Win-win-win.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I hope you’ve enjoyed this newest peek into the Second Chance Pups program. If you’re impressed by what you’re read, please share our posts about the program, offer to volunteer with Second Chance Pups, and donate generously to Second Chance Pups on Give to Lincoln Day.
Written by Allison and Andy Frederick
Photographs by Andy Frederick
Read the previous article in this series: Catching Up with Second Chance Pups: Willow