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Sunday, July 10, 2011

the inmates are just kids

Sally got to try a new Pet Therapy experience a week ago; she visited inmates at the Juvenile Detention Center in Caldwell. We walked into this secure facility where people have guns, locks and chains are common place, concrete is the building material, and steel doors are six inches thick. The lighting is cheap and dim, as are the spirits of those incarcerated in this hellish environment.

Yet within those 20-foot-high concrete barriers, children need the comfort and connection from a darling little pug dog just as much as one who is ill in the hospital. The youngest inmate ever housed in the detention center was a mere nine years old. The youngest jailed there when Sally and I went to do therapy visits was only 13.

Groups of 5-6 were ushered in under guard, their young faces marked with fatigue, stress, and incredible anguish. As soon as they caught sight of the dogs, they lit up and the consequences of their choices and their upbringing melted away for a few minutes. Hardened "gang bangers" disintegrated into goofy kids laughing at curly pug dog tails, and smiling like they were young and innocent again.

For a mere twenty minutes, these kids whose lives are in devastation were able to connect with another living being who had no ulterior motives. Therapy dogs willingly exchange their love for the kids' anguish. Sally Sue quickly became exhausted as she gave away love and joy and took on those childrens' pain. By the end of the evening, her little tail was dragging and she was feeling the weight of sorrow.

How must these children feel? These young kids? Boys and girls who should be just experiencing with racecars and makeup, respectively, not drugs, stealing, sex, and violence. What is happening to the joy and innocence of youth? What kind of parents are raising a child to enter into juvy at the age of NINE?! I have a nephew who is eight years old, and the idea of him being jailed next year is preposterous! He has parents who love him and teach him basic principles of right and wrong. What's the matter with people today? Why are they leaving their children by the wayside? Where are the basic values of right and wrong?

Pet Therapy is a valuable service. I am indeed grateful that it is available to ALL who need it, not just the "deserving" ones.

So, too, is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Available to ALL who need it, not just for a select few who are deemed "deserving." He came to heal all.