Story by Clarence Kibler, Valley State Prison YOP head facilitator 
Photos by Valley State Prison staff

Editor’s note: The Youthful Offender Program delegates a special classification committee to review cases of incarcerated youth transferring to the adult system and, based on the youth’s merits, place him in a lower-security prison yard. The goal is to keep youth away from more serious and violent criminal influences found at high-security level prisons. The program is aided by inmate facilitators and mentors who encourage YOP participants to discover their own path toward a productive and meaningful life. Valley State Prison’s head facilitator, Clarence Kibler, submitted this story, highlighting a recent graduation of the YOP Obedience Dog Graduation.

On Oct. 3, Valley State prison (VSP) held it second Youth Offender Program (YOP) obedience dog graduation.

It was a tremendous success.

Our program is committed to assisting in the overall development and basic obedience training of rescued dogs that come into our care. We believe that rescue dogs deserve to be treated kindly and ultimately adopted by a family who can love them unconditionally. We had two of our beloved dogs graduate with flying colors, ‘Toby’ who is a Chihuahua/Dauchsund mix, and ‘Hank’ who is a cocker spaniel.

Inmate V. Trillo who is our lead dog trainer had Toby perform all the basic commands such as ‘sit’, ‘Down’, ‘Heel’, and ‘Touch’. After that, he reached into his bag of tricks and had Toby perform jumping through a hoop, making circles by listening to Trillo’s voice and following his finger. He also had Toby shake with his paw, and he even had him get up against the wall for a ‘Pat Down’ in emulating how correctional officer search inmates. That trick had everybody in the audience roaring with laughter.

Next to perform was dog handler, inmate L. Campos, who had his dog Hank, perform his basic commands and then he surprised the audience having him perform a few tricks such as taking the leash in his mouth and then giving it to Mr. Campos. He also had him get on his back while he did push up’s which kept the audience laughing.

Our dogs went to very loving homes. Toby was adopted by Correctional Officer C. Williams, who absolutely loves him. Hank was adopted by M. Marshall, who is one of the LVN‘s at VSP. As a ceremony continued on, we had a few people come up and speak such as Correctional Counselor II/ Y.O.P Coordinator E. Alva, Complex II O.T.  A. Hage, voluntary dog trainer S. Brown-Monroe, and the Director from the Merced County Humane Society Ms. R. Schmitz, and also VSP Warden Raythel Fisher Jr.

We even had three youth offender participants give speeches relating to their experience while interacting with Toby and Hank. C. Gonzalez, D. Grant, and D. Niacan who had everybody’s attention including all of the other YOP participants who were in attendance.

VSP‘s graduation had a tremendous impact on all those who attended and had very positive outcome. It was sad to see Toby and Hank leave because they have become such a part of the YOP Dog Program but we know that they will be going to loving families, and we look forward to training other dogs to find them good homes.

We would like to take the opportunity to give a give special thanks to all the participants in the YOP Dog Program: V. Trillo, L. Campos, C. Gonzalez, Medina, A. Vivero, C. Kibler, D. Grant and A. Virelas. Also we would like to give a very special thank you and extend our gratitude to all the staff members that make this program possible.

We are changing the future one dog at a time.