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Found in a storm drain, the Boxer-Lab pup now known as Bear graduated with honors from a prison training program and found his forever home.
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In the world of pet rescue, a wonderful success story is like a bright ray of sunshine after the storm. Consider the tale of Stormy. The 6-month-old Boxer/Lab-mix puppy had a rough start in life. A Good Samaritan found him stuck in a storm drain in Southern California (how he came to be there is anyone’s guess), and called OC Animal Care in Orange County, which rescued him and christened him Stormy. The young dog appeared to have been hit by a car; he had a broken shoulder and a badly damaged eye. With lots of care, Stormy’s shoulder eventually healed, but the eye was ultimately removed.
While at OC Animal Care, the one-eyed-dog caught the eye of Janette Thomas, executive director of Pathways to Hope, an organization that rescues dogs from local shelters and places them with prison inmates, who train and socialize the dogs. The program, called COLLAR (Canines Offering Life Lessons And Rewards), is a win-win for everyone. The inmates take on responsibility, developing life and career skills they can use once released. The dogs learn essential life skills that help make them more adoptable.
After Stormy was released from OC Animal Care’s medical program, Janette sprung him from the shelter and placed him in the COLLAR program at the James A. Musick Facility in Irvine, California. “Initially, Stormy was a bit of a ‘wild child’ due to his age and long-term kennel restrictions,” she said, “but he graduated from our program at the top of his class and was lovingly adopted by a sergeant at that facility.”
That would be Sgt. Donna Mereness, who manages the COLLAR program at the jail. “Janette sends me photos and bios of prospective dogs prior to their placement at Musick,” Donna said. “I make sure they are suitable for the facility.”
When Donna saw the first pictures of Stormy — who now goes by Bear — she was instantly in love. “When he arrived at the facility and I saw his sweet, adorable, and goofy personality, I knew he should be part of my family,” she said.
While Bear was in the prison program, living with his inmate trainers, Donna visited him several times a week, which made the transition to his forever home with Donna and her boyfriend seamless because he already knew her. Now he’s living the good life, getting plenty of love and outdoor play. You would never know the active and outgoing Bear was once a very injured dog.
“He is super smart and has us both wrapped around his little paw,” Donna said. “He loves children and is super gentle with my 18-month-old nephew. Bear and I go hiking in the hills behind our house, and he loves to sniff everything. Other than only having one eye — he does not know he only has one eye — he has no residual problems from his injuries.”
Donna is proud of the fact that Bear is a very much a “people dog,” always wanting to say “hi” to everyone he meets. “We go to the dog park at least once a week,” she said. “I watch him go to every person and get a pet, hug, pat, or kiss, even if they initially don’t want to. I can’t tell you how many times people come over to me to tell me what a sweet, friendly and handsome dog Bear is.”
Top photo: Courtesy OC Animal Care.
Jackie is a freelance writer specializing in the pet industry. She lives in Southern California with her husband, son, and adorable Miniature Poodle, Jäger, who is obsessed with fetch and killing all the toys. She is the former editor of Rescue Proud, Dog World, and Puppies 101. Follow her on Twitter or visit her website.
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