By CHRIS MORRIS
Edith Taylor loves living at one of The Villas of Guerin Woods in Georgetown. She said the staff goes out of its way to take care of her needs.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said.
But something, she said, was missing. That is until about four weeks ago.
That something is a 1-year-old hound named Joe, who also now calls Guerin Woods home. He is a mixed breed who was neglected during his young life. But since his arrival, he has brought nothing but pure joy to the residents of Guerin Woods.
“I told Sister Barbara [Ann Zeller] when you have a dog around it just makes the home complete,” Taylor said. “Now we have a dog. Many of us had animals before but we had to give them up to come here. Now if we are gone for a few weeks and come back, we know he will be here.”
Joe is one of two dogs now roaming The Villas. He and his partner in crime, a Labrador retriever named Jack, were recently adopted by The Villas from the Luther Luckett Correctional Facility in Oldham County, Ky. For four to eight weeks, the dogs lived with inmates who were responsible for their training and care. There are 12 dogs in the program and 250 to 300 have graduated from Luther Luckett since its inception. The prison gets its dogs from the Oldham County Humane Society.
Zeller — president and CEO of Guerin Inc./Providence Self Sufficiency Ministries, which operates The Villas — said the prison program “is wonderful.” She visited the dogs and inmates before receiving the two dogs, and came away impressed.
“The inmates are responsible for the animal 24/7. They train and live with the dogs,” Zeller said. “The inmates get so much out of it and the elders love the dogs.”
She said recently, one of the residents was watching a baseball game on television and petting Joe, who was sitting at his side. She said having the two dogs around the residents is therapeutic.
Sherry Taylor is in charge of the program at the Luther Luckett facility. She said each inmate in the program gets one dog to train and is responsible for that animal until it is adopted.
“Sister Barbara came out and visited all the dogs. I think it’s a wonderful program,” Taylor said. “It gives inmates responsibility. They train the dogs, live with the dogs ... they get attached. They get a lot out of it. It gives them something to care for and they learn along the way.”
Joe is 2 years old and has a hip issue that will have to be medically corrected as he gets older. Taylor said some people don’t want to adopt a dog with physical issues.
Judy Foster, who works with Chelsea’s Legacy, an animal rescue organization, hooked Zeller up with Taylor and the Oldham County Humane Society.
Lisanne Mikan, with the Oldham County Humane Society, said her organization concentrates on its spay and neuter program, but now, thanks to Luther Luckett program, also has an adoption outlet.
“This program put us in the adoption business,” Mikan said. “There is no turning back now.”
Mikan said most of the dogs came from kill shelters.
“We have taken 300 dogs out of a shelter and into a program,” she said. “It’s just a great thing.”
Gladys Courtney, a resident of The Villas, agrees.
“We always had a dog,” she said. “It brightens up the day. It just feels better to have a dog around.”
HOPING FOR MORE
Zeller said she is glad Foster introduced the program to her. She said she always wanted to have dogs at the facility, but was busy taking care of “God’s human creatures” and didn’t have the space. Now she hopes to add more dogs to the Georgetown property, which also includes the Providence House for Children.
She said when she worked at Providence Retirement Home in New Albany, she saw how residents responded to her dog.
“I saw the miracles she [the dog] could do there,” Zeller said.
She said the dogs not only give love to the residents, but also provide friendships to the children and elders who reside there. One of the residents at The Villas, who had suffered a massive stroke, recently was able to tell Joe “I love you.”
“Judy knew I wanted to get the program started and she came up to me one day and said ‘Sister, I know how you can begin,’” she said. “We have only just begun. I was so impressed when I went down to the prison to see the inmates with the dogs. They had so much dignity and respect for each other and their canine friends. It’s a win-win.”