Let’s Talk with Tina Whittle

Operation New Hope

By Tina Whittle

CookieI’ve always been a sucker for a story with a happy ending. It’s one of the reasons I write mysteries – good triumphs over evil, and life returns to the sweetly normal. However, I didn’t expect to find such a powerful one in the Chatham County Detention Center. This is “the jail,” after all, the place where men and women come to await trial. They are booked and bonded, processed and incarcerated. There is no “happy” in any road that ends here.

RockyExcept for Rodeo. And Dizzy. And Cleopatra. For them, ending up at the Chatham County Detention Center is the best beginning they could have hoped for.

That’s because they’re dogs, part of the latest “class” in Operation New Hope, a partnership between the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office and the Greater Savannah Humane Society. Dogs are selected for a four-week training course taught by pre-selected, low-risk inmates who house the dogs in their cells for the entirety of the program. They housebreak the dogs and teach them basic obedience skills like “sit” and “stay”; crate training and leash commands are also taught. By the time the training is complete and the dog has passed its final certification test, he or she is ready to be adopted through the Humane Society.

RodeoDogs are chosen for the program because they would make good pets, but perhaps need a little polishing to reach their full potential. They are sometimes not housebroken, or a little rough around the edges manners-wise. Operation New Hope is a second chance for these loving animals to find their forever homes. But the dogs aren’t the only ones benefitting.

While I was at the center, I got a chance to visit with the inmates currently in the program. They’d just finished sending their “students” off to be adopted, and were both proud and a little sad. They’d bonded deeply with their canine charges, they said, and missed them. But they were happy knowing that thanks to their hard work, some very good dogs had gotten a second chance at life. And many of them saw new potential in their own lives, including eventually working as dog trainers.

TessaSince it is not funded with any tax dollars, Operation New Hope could use your help. They accept donations of food and treats and toys; your dollars also make a big difference.

For more information on the program, please visit the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office website: http://chathamsheriff.org/Corrections/Inmate-Information/Inmate-Programs/Operation-New-Hope. There you can find contact information and read the bios of the current class of canines: Rodeo, Cookie, Dizzy, Tessa, Lev, Thriller, Dillon, Cleopatra, Coffy, and Rocky. They are terriers and chows, hounds and cattle dogs. And they are all, every single one, very good dogs who deserve a very happy ending.

Comments

  1. I’ve seen the comfort dogs at funerals and thought what an amazing idea. All the stories I’ve read about ways to employ animals are so heart-warming. Great post, Tina.

  2. Terry Ambrose says:

    Nice story with a great ending. Everybody wins. Thanks for posting this.

  3. Sounds like a win-win. Thanks for sharing this, and for spreading awareness for this program.

  4. I love hearing about success stories like this one. Pets for Vets is another good one where the pets bring balance back into a person’s life. Thanks for sharing this, Tina.

    • tinawhittle says:

      Anything that connects people and animals in a mutually beneficial relationship is a win-win. For everybody.