I’ve been going to the same dentist, Dr. Jeff Calamos, for more than 25 years. He really is a painless dentist — he’ll use enough Novocaine to numb an elephant and he always jiggles your cheek so you don’t feel it going in. He will have either a good joke or a funny story to share when I go for my semi-annual teeth cleaning. I’ve had bonus visits this year because I needed a new crown and he told me about a woman who was very nervous and the sound of laughter in the office made her uncomfortable. Dr. Jeff asked her if she would prefer to hear people screaming. Perspective is key to most anything, but especially a trip to the dentist.
He’s also married to a woman who loves dogs. He does too, but he usually speaks in terms of his wife as the dog lover. He told me that they had adopted “Buzz” from the NC Dept. of Corrections’ A New Leash on Life program. Some minimum and medium security NC prisons partner with local animal shelters and rescue groups to allow inmates to train dogs in preparation for adoption. Through positive reinforcement, they teach the dogs the basics to becoming good dog citizens.
This training gives the dogs a better chance to be adopted and the inmates something positive to do with their time. Inmates also have the opportunity to receive certified training that will help them get a job upon release. Two apprenticeships are available to selected inmates, Dog Trainer Apprenticeship and Animal Care Apprenticeship. Solid, steady employment for those who have served their time is a prime factor to keeping them from re-offending and returning to prison. The program has a high success rate with over 92% of the dogs immediately adopted after completing the program, those dogs not immediately adopted return to their rescue group to await adoption.
The first time Dr. Jeff met Buzz, Buzz growled at him. Dr. Jeff shrugged it off and said, “nobody likes the dentist.” The inmate who trained Buzz became very attached to him and hoped his mother would be able to adopt him, but Dr. Jeff assured the man that Buzz would be well-cared for and loved — “when you die, you want to come back as one of my wife’s dogs.” I tried to get pictures of Buzz, but I don’t think Dr. Jeff found my email in his spam folder. This program is another example of the positive effects dogs have on individuals and society as a whole. Dogs help veterans, people physical and mental challenges and most anyone open to receiving unconditional, slobbery love.
“Happiness is a warm puppy.” ~ Charles M. Schultz