Notes From The Field: To Prison We Went

By: Ellie Hansen

Ellie, Rae, & Zulu pose outside the MT Women’s Prison after their visit.

Today Rae (Lovable Pets Head Groomer) and I were guest speakers at the Montana Women’s Prison here in Billings. We spoke specifically with the women who are part of the “Prison Paws Program” in which inmates learn how to train dogs through positive reinforcement methods. Here the inmates also learn about dog grooming, as well as canine health and wellness. It is a program that I have always admired, and I was excited to see it first-hand.

Leaving all our possessions at the front desk including phones, coats, and keys, we walked down the hallways of the prison toward the dog training room where we would be talking. Not knowing what to expect, we entered the room where the inmates were waiting for us seated in chairs arranged in a circle.

Rae and I spoke about how Lovable Pets got started, some of the hardships we encountered early on as new business owners, and about details of operating a dog grooming salon. We were met with much enthusiasm and were peppered with questions from these women who were of all ages. They loved talking about anything dog related. Most of all Rae and I wanted to shed some light on the possibilities of future dog-related careers…everyone needs hope and something to work toward.

As Rae and I drove back to Lovable Pets after our presentation, I reflected on this experience. I thought about how dogs have this incredible ability to connect us to each other as fellow human beings. Dogs help us work on ourselves as human beings. Dogs also provide us with emotional healing—something all of us need from time to time.

Prison Paws is an amazing example of connecting dogs and our community together for a greater purpose.