Benjamin Lewis, Jr. (a talented incarcerated artist whose colored pencils drawing - "She Sings Blessings to the Iron House" - that was installed and on exhibit at Alcatraz this past May-June) has been fostering Dean. Dean as you can see is a handsome specimen of a white male Labrador Retriever that Ben has been taking care of in the canine foster care program at the prison. Ben says of Dean: "He's a smart and loving dog".
While Ben is sad knowing that Dean will soon be leaving his foster care to become someone's permanent canine assistant, Ben says that ..."I love the fact he'll be helping someone who is handicapped".
I sincerely wish that more prisons (all prisons) around the country would institute programs like this! In the meantime, I happened to come across the following poem by Diane Morgan, and while the circumstances are slightly different, it aptly describes the special relationship between dog and incarcerated foster dog caretaker:
“I am the bridge
between what was and what can be
I am the pathway to a new life.
I am made of mush,
because my heart melted when I saw you,
matted, sore, limping, depressed,
lonely, unwanted, afraid to love.
For one little time you are mine.
I will feed you with my own hand.
I will love you with my whole heart.
I will make you whole.
I am made of steel,
because when the time comes
when you are well and sleek,
when your eyes shine,
and your tail wags with joy
then comes the hard part.
I will let you go,
not without a tear,
but without a regret,
for you are safe forever,
a new dog needs me now”
– author - Diane Morgan
Artwork Image attached: "She Sings Blessings To the Iron House" by Benjamin Lewis, Jr.
Photo of Ben and Dean at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, CA