Healing has always been central to the DAWGS in Prison program.

Healing has always been central to the DAWGS in Prison program.

In Developing Adoptable dogs With Good Sociability (DAWGS), the program is at center about healing lives, those of stray dogs and men run astray of the law, those of adoptees in ways not always realized.

Through more than 500 dogs saved from the St. Joseph Bay Humane Society shelter, through more than 505 inmates provided the opportunity to learn valuable life skills, DAWGS in Prison has sought, at heart, to heal.

And that was on clear display during last week’s graduation of Class 51 (for starters, let that number sink in).

Sure, there have been DAWGS graduates that have gone on to become special-needs dogs, providing comfort to a veteran with PTSD or assistance to a man suffering from blood sugar imbalance.

Last week, however, tossed a brighter spotlight on the dog end of that equation, in particular four graduates.

Shasta arrived at the St. Joseph Bay Humane Society with fractures to her hip and pelvis.

The folks at the SJBHS began a fundraising campaign for the surgeries the dog required and subsequently underwent.

Last week she graduated from DAWGS after eight weeks of training.

“She now goes home with two moms from Carrabelle who love her,” said Sandi Christy, co-director of the DAWGS in Prison program.

Stage left, there was Jimbo and Nelson, dogs that arrived at the SJBHS shelter in emaciated condition, badly-underfed, neglected, in need of just basic medical care.

Jimbo was also extremely timid, Christy said, and very shy.

They wanted nothing to do with anyone.

Last week, both graduated to forever homes, sociable and behaved.

“All of these dogs have been restored to good health and are much better socialized,” Christy said. “The dedicated men of this program willingly accept these challenging dogs and take a lot of pride in their results.”

And, finally, there is Lilly, who Christy called one of the “special graduates.”

Lilly is a special-needs dog after being unintentionally injured during a heartworm treatment injection.

“Thanks to the (humane society) and the DAWGS program, she has almost made a full recovery,” Christy said. “Lilly can walk, run and play with other dogs with ease, with some minor incontinence issues.”

Issues more than balanced by the kind of dog Lilly is, Christy said.

Currently being fostered by Mary Freytag of Port St. Joe, Christy described Lilly as a “stunning, brindle Shepherd mix … sweet, very smart, eager to please and well-behaved.”

The dog weighs 44 pounds, loves car rides, peanut butter, playing fetch and ice cubes and, according to Freytag, is a “great exercise partner … and enjoys going for walks with her loved ones, especially on the beach.”

While Lilly is great with dogs, however, she is not a fan of cats in her home.

To top it all off, Lilly is now a graduate of DAWGS in Prison, a fully-trained dog understanding of basic commands, care and sociability.

Christy said if a person provided a quiet home with stable routine and bathroom breaks during the day along with a dose of compassion, the reward is a “wonderful and loyal companion” that relishes closeness to loved ones, sleeps through the night in her dog bed, loves her crate and can provide home security in exchange for a good bone.

Applications to adopt Lilly and any other dogs in the DAWGS in Prison program can be found at www.dawgsinprison.com.

In existence over seven years, the DAWGS in Prison program is a collaboration between the SJBHS, the Department of Corrections, the Gulf Forestry Camp and the Board of County Commissioners.