Ricky Mamoran was in search of a companion.


Ricky Mamoran was in search of a companion.



Trenton arrived last week to fit the bill.



Trenton was among the dogs comprising the 31st graduating class of DAWGS in Prison, a program that has over the past four years saved 324 dogs, now living in 17 states, and provided a bit of redemption for 320 inmates at the Gulf Forestry Camp.



“I would recommend that program to anyone,” Mamoran said while talking about Trenton. “It was not a long process at all and very user-friendly.”



Mamoran was not just looking for a dog, but a dog of particular temperament.



An U.S. Army veteran, Mamoran, who lives in Panama City, suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq.



He has dealt with the often debilitating effects that include post-traumatic stress disorder and depression in addition to physical symptoms such as the inability to stand up more than 10 minutes.



“I was seeking a companion dog,” Mamoran said. “That is a step down from a service dog. I did not want a service dog because I don’t think it is fair for the dog to have to work all the time.



“I want him to be with me at all times, but not have to be working.”



Once discharged from the military, doctors suggested Mamoran consider a dog and he was referred to the non-profit organization Pets for Patriots.



The first attempt at adoption progressed to near the point of adoption, however, only to have the facility providing the dog inform Mamoran and his fiancé that they would have to pay $200.



“The whole thing started to sound kind of fishy,” he said.



Referred by Pets for Patriots to the St. Joseph Bay Humane Society, Mamoran was quickly in contact with DAWGS in Prison, which exists through collaboration between the SJBHS, the Florida Department of Corrections and the Board of County Commissioners.



“I filed my application on the weekend and it was approved that same day and I got a call from (DAWGS co-coordinator) Sandi Christy on that Monday,” Mamoran said.



Christy went over the dogs in the graduating class and one day Mamoran, his fiancé and children drove over to the Forestry Camp to meet Trenton.



“He listened to me right away,” Mamoran said. “Even though he didn’t know me he obeyed a couple of commands. The kids fed him a couple of times.



“It was kind of like love at first sight, I guess.”



And back home, after a few days?



“The kids love him and I can’t get enough of him,” Mamoran said.



He and his family have also learned quickly a valuable lesson imparted following graduation, when the inmate training teams review a series of commands that have been integral in the training during the prior eight weeks.



“We’ve been doing his training just like they showed us,” Mamoran said after acknowledging that Trenton faltered a couple of times on commands on which he was reminded daily.



“But, on the other hand, I can’t stand more than 10 minutes and he had to go out and I told him to hurry. And he just stayed right there close to the door and used the bathroom. He’s been great.”



The only costs borne by Mamoran were for spay-neutering and for Trenton to be tagged with a microchip.



Trenton still could be additionally trained to be alert to and react to the symptoms of Mamoran’s illness, but he has yet to decide, just thankful to receive a trained companion at little cost.



Mamoran and other adopters – one, Angela Thurston, drove from South Florida to adopt a dog for her family of six children – are but one of the key components of the DAWGS program.



The other are the inmates, who apply to participate in the program, are carefully screened and advance from caretaker to trainer to lead trainer once accepted.



Several have gone on to use the skills used in DAWGS to work with animals on the outside or simply become more productive members of society.



Tommy Howard was one inmate interviewed by this reporter over the past four years who became one of the top trainers in the program.



Howard, living in Rhode Island, did not find financially-feasible work with animals, but is employed and in school to be a trade journeyman, three years from possibly owning a business.



“I can honestly say that I relate everything in my life to dog training,” Howard wrote in a letter to Christy. “I just find a way to break everything in my life down to small goals and stay patient, confident and ambitious.



“Often times people that have known me now for a few months will find out one way or another that I just served time in Florida and are absolutely shocked. They really just can’t believe I could ever have been anything but the man I am today … and it feels great. It’s been amazing and freedom is limitless.”