Kevin and Rebecca Mueller recently adopted Chuey (now Chewie) through BRGA and the Hardee Hero Hound program - welcome to the pack! This is their story.
Our story begins a few months ago when we discovered a little-known connection between Blue Ridge Greyhound Adoption and the Greyhound Advancement Center's Hardee Hero Hound program. The Hardee Hero Hound program helps retired racing hounds transition to home life and learn basic obedience from Hardee Correctional Institute inmate-trainers. In return, inmate-trainers gain valuable skills, a sense of purpose, and the unconditional love of a dog during their time in prison. Studies have shown a lower rate of re-incarceration when prisoners are given opportunities to have responsibilities and learn employable skills. All of the inmate-trainers who participate in the Hardee Hero Hound program will be released from prison at some point in the future. We were sold!
Our next step was to complete the Blue Ridge Greyhound Adoption application, schedule a home visit, and match to a compatible greyhound. Our demands were simple- we wanted a greyhound we could get certified as a therapy dog so we could share some of the unconditional love from our greyhound with children and injured veterans. Anyone who has read a book on greyhounds, watched videos on YouTube, or attended one of the local Meet-and-Greets knows greyhounds have the perfect temperament to be a therapy dog.
Blue Ridge Greyhound Adoption worked closely with the Greyhound Advancement Center to find our perfect match - Chu Chu - a sweet 4 year old brindle boy who loves people. Chu Chu entered the Hardee Hero Hound program on July 29 and while we were busy plotting our drive to Florida, he was busy learning basic commands, stairs, potty-training, and transitioning to home life during the 8-10 week program, which culminates in a greyhound graduation ceremony at the Hardee Correctional Institute. The graduation is held in a community room setting, where the inmate-trainers demonstrate the abilities of their dogs and awards are given out for outstanding achievements. Adopters are able to see first-hand how the Hardee Hero Hound program transforms inmate-trainers and greyhounds. Adopters meet with the inmate-trainer and are given unique insight into “what makes the hound tick,” likes/dislikes, and any special tricks beyond basic obedience. Inmates get a special luncheon (which you can help sponsor as a thank you) and adopters are invited to a luncheon at a dog-friendly restaurant in a neighboring town. Unless there is a Hurricane...
A few days before Chu Chu's graduation, Hurricane Matthew began making national news as the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since 2007. Scheduled landfall in Florida: graduation day. As Hurricane Matthew was racing towards Florida from the south, we were racing towards Florida from the north, and the greyhound was probably sleeping - shocking, right? Throughout the entire process, the incredible volunteers at Blue Ridge Greyhound Adoption and the Greyhound Advancement Center were working with us to identify a workable Plan B.
Plan B took us to the home of June and Len, volunteers for the Greyhound Advancement Center. June and Len were gracious enough to pick Chu Chu up from the prison a day before Hurricane Matthew made landfall and bring him to their home. This is where we met Chu Chu for the first time.
Now, some of you may be wondering how you get a prison-trained greyhound. The first step is to contact Blue Ridge Greyhound Adoption and complete an application, then schedule a home visit. Blue Ridge Greyhound Adoption will find out when the next group of hounds will be graduating and if there is a good match for you. Adopters need to: (1) be willing to make a trip down to Florida to attend graduation and pick up their greyhound and (2) be patient as classes last 8-10 weeks - you may have to wait for the class to finish. It is so worth the wait! The Florida graduation party is the best part of the whole adoption experience. Yes, you will go into a prison, but no, it’s not scary. The graduation is done in a controlled environment and inmate-trainers are in good standing.
Greyhound Advancement Center also offer Boot Camp refresher courses and boarding for all greyhounds. Returning graduates can be spotted by looking for wagging tails, as the greyhounds have nothing but positive memories of their time in prison!
If you have any questions about adopting a prison trained greyhound, we are here as ambassadors to help answer those questions!