Stanley, now a playful, black, wire-haired terrier with lovesick eyes, entered Nevada State Prison five months ago with two cracked ribs and such a traumatized psyche that he immediately tried to jump through the first barred window he saw.
"He was terrified of everything and everyone," says Joe Buchanan, the 4-year-old pooch's cell mate, trainer and best friend. "From day one, he just ran right under the bed and stayed there and wouldn't come out."
In the five months since, the dog has re-learned things like how to trust and how to play through a huge investment of love and attention given by Buchanan.
Buchanan tosses Stanley's favorite bone-shaped squeak-toy out into the prison grounds.
The dog scampers after the toy, gives it a few squeaks and returns it to his master along with a batch of wet licks and a happy, jittery little tail.
Stanley is part of the successful Puppy's Up for Parole program at Nevada State Prison, a cutting-edge study in compassion that pairs hard-timers with dogs who have lived through hard times.
Prisoners lucky enough to get into the popular program (the waiting list is very long, according to Buchanan) are assigned a double cell and a rescued dog to care for.
"Stanley would have been put to sleep," he says. "He got a second chance here at NSP."
While the prisoner is tasked with teaching the dog basic commands like "sit" and "stay" and making them into adoptable house pets, the foster loving bonds stronger than any prison shackles.
After eight years in prison, Buchanan says caring for the dog 24 hours a day has helped given him a sense of reality and responsibility.
In the two years since the program began, inmates have rescued, trained, and successfully adopted out more than 200 dogs, according to Warden Michael Budge.
"It's a win-win situation," he says.
So much so, the program recently inspired a similar partnership between the Marin County Humane Society and California's notorious San Quentin Prison.
Budge says officials from San Quentin came out to the Carson City facility to study the PUP program.
Of course, a successful PUP enrollment ends when a dog is adopted, a satisfying but admittedly tearful moment, according to Buchanan, who knows his days with his four-pawed pal are limited.
"It'll be tough," he says. "There will be tears."
n Contact reporter Peter Thompson at email@example.com or 881-1215.
Adopt a puppy
• The fee for adoption is $65 a dog.
• If you have questions and are interested in a dog for yourself or someone else, contact:
Ð Linda Hoke, at the Nevada Humane Society, 331-5770
Ð Michael J. Budge, warden of Nevada State Prison: 887-3462
Ð James E. Baca, associate warden of Programs, Nevada State Prison: 887-3463.