I have always loved dogs. I had two when I was younger. I moved to building five to be closer to them. Their barks are music to my ears! My friends in the program let me pet and interact with them. It was thrilling for me. It brought back my fond childhood memories of my dogs (Penny and Willy). I watched Karma Rescue’s “Paws For Life” program from a distance. I observed the trainers and the men who handle the dogs. I was impressed by their confident, and comfortable demeanor. I decided I’d like to become part of the group. It is not easy to get in. Dozens of men applied just as I did. When an opening became available, I jumped at the opportunity. I was interviewed and accepted. I was overjoyed and grateful.
Paws For Life’s ninth graduation ceremony was in the visiting room in Lancaster, California, on May
11th. I had only been in the program for three days; I really did not expect to be invited. To my surprise, my name was on the list! I had no idea what to anticipate, but I was excited.
All the dogs were washed and brushed. We were escorted in groups of ten; some men brought their portable beds and toys. The dignitaries began to arrive. I was unaware the men could invite their friends and family members. The atmosphere was electrifying as men hugged their loved ones and showed their dogs to them. After the warm greetings, the ceremony was called to order by the emcee, Associate Warden C. Wood. She introduced the Warden, D. Asuncion, and two representatives from “Karma Rescue,” Alex Tonner, who is the Director of Operations, and Robin Keefe, the C.E.O.! Ms. Wood launched the “Paws For Life” program and continues to be involved in its success.
Three men who are exceptional artists painted beautiful portraits which were presented to some special guests who are supporters of the PFL program. Ray, Chuck, and Tin displayed their works with pride. Each recipient was deeply moved by their compassion. Tears of joy clouded many people’s eyes. Chris Lynch was given a painting of his son who served in Afghanistan, and later died in military exercises. Sergeant Major Acosta was given a painting of himself, receiving the purple heart. Dawn Ayers, a longtime PFL supporter and adopter of a dog, was given a portrait of her nephew who died in combat. Four men in the program, Duck, Travielle, Pete, and Marcus, gave short speeches of how the program has changed their lives.
Pete gave a very emotional testimony. His love for the dogs was obvious. He shared his experiences training and playing with them. His commitment and devotion/love will help these dogs get adopted and go to happy homes. He also announced that he was found eligible for parole. The crowd went from tears to cheers! Soon afterwards, certificates were given to all the trainers and refreshments were served. Three large colorful cakes were decorated with dog themed quotes. They were very delicious. Yes, I had a large corner piece with lots of icing.
Everyone mingled and introduced themselves to each other. Wonderful conversations regarding dogs were shared. The room was full of smiles, memories, and laughs. Unfortunately, it was time for the event to end. The visitors said goodbye to their loved ones. Before departing, they bid farewell to the well-behaved dogs as well. It was a morning I will never forget and will always cherish! I am excited for round ten to finish in September, when I will receive my certificate with my loved ones in attendance!
-L. Edward May