Friday, May 31, 2013

Choosing the Next Class for the Pawsitive Partners Prison Program

I spent a morning this week with folks from the Pawsitive Partners Prison Program at an animal shelter in Burgaw, North Carolina. The group was present to choose dogs to be trained in preparation for adoption into permanent homes. On this day, the kennels were full and it appeared to me there would be no problem in finding good candidates.

The program's director, Barb Raab, told me that most of the dogs coming into the shelter are hounds that have been used for hunting and pit bulls, used in fighting. North Carolina law prohibits organizations like Pawsitive Partners from bringing dogs of any breed deemed aggressive into their programs and pit bulls are on that no-train list.

As we walked along the outdoor kennels, some dogs snarled at us. Others cowered in corners. Several, however, either warily or eagerly, came near looking for attention. If a dog passed this initial assessment, referred to as "cage presentation," he or she was brought inside the shelter to undergo 18 more tests. Through these, the evaluators sought to get a sense of how the dog might respond to a tooth exam, a baby, a toddler, a cat, another dog, a loud noise, a hug, a toy, a food bowl. A doll and a stuffed animal stood in for the baby and toddler and the cats were safely secured out of reach.

If a candidate passed these evaluations, he or she was then tested for heartworm. I was saddened to see two delightful little dogs being returned to their cages when they were found to have high-antigen levels for the parasite.

Barb Raab, Founder and Director of the
Pawsitive Partners Prison Program,
working with one of the dogs under
Just five animals would be selected this day for an eight-week round of training and these successful candidates will be put through their paces by specially-screened inmates at the Pender County Correctional Institution.

The fear in the eyes, the tension in the bodies, and the tightly-tucked tails made me wonder what kind of abuse some of the dogs I saw must have endured prior to being brought into the shelter. It delighted me no end to think how different their lives are likely to be once they are placed in loving adoptive homes.

Pawsitive Partners is credited with saving the lives of  canines but human beings are being transformed through their efforts as well. One of the program's volunteers told me he has never forgotten the words shared by one of the inmates after his first round of classes with the Pawsitive Partners dogs. The man said the experience marked the first time in his life he'd ever thought of anyone but himself and drugs.
These two dogs, having passed the temperament tests and heartworm
screening, will be participating in the next round of classes. Two other
dogs were not as fortunate; they passed all of the temperament
evaluations but had to be rejected due to high-antigen levels for

Thursday, May 30, 2013

All Things Snoopy

On October 2, 1950, three kids - Charlie Brown, Patty and Shermy - appeared on the funny pages of seven newspapers. Over the next 50 years plus - via television specials, a Saturday morning cartoon, books, live theater productions, recordings, amusement parks and 17,897 comic strips - these three, along with Snoopy, Woodstock and others in a sizable cast of characters, have taught us and entertained us.

The Peanuts Gang was the invention of Charles M. Schulz and, today, visitors to Santa Rosa, California may explore the art and nuances of his craft at a museum that carries on his legacy.
Schulz was born in Minneapolis in 1922 and 12 hours after his birth, an uncle gave him the nickname “Sparky” after the racehorse character Spark Plug in a popular comic strip of the time, Barney Google. Thus, almost from the moment of his birth, Schulz had a connection with comic strips. Early on, “Sparky” showed an aptitude for art and, following service in the European Theater of Operation during World War II, he launched into a career in the funny papers.
IMG_5705In Episode 26 of On the Road with Mac and Molly, I chat with Karen Johnson, Director of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center and longtime friend of the Schulz family. We hear about the Peanuts Gang, its creator and the museum. And then we center, most especially, on all things Snoopy from his doghouse decor (a pool table, Wyeths and a Van Gogh . . . ); to his impersonations (from a moose and a pelican to Mickey Mouse); his moments at the typewriter (“It was a dark and stormy night . . . “); his alter-egos (who doesn’t love his WWI flying ace and his battles with the Red Baron?); his “band of brothers” (siblings Spike, Marbles, Olaf, Andy and Belle); and his connection with aviation (from NASA to the U.S. Air Force).
It was not until 1957 that Snoopy walked on his two
hind feet like a human.
Karen explains how Snoopy’s character evolved over time to embrace more and more of the fanciful. We also hear why Schulz believed the best idea he ever had in the strip was to move Snoopy from inside the doghouse to the rooftop.
All photos taken at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, California by Donna Hailson.