Marlow Gets 'New Leash on Life'
BY TOM EMBREY
When most people looked at Marlow, a rambunctious, unruly yellow Labrador mix, they saw problems - jumping, mouthing, pulling and other bad behavior.
But others, like Lynn Stickel and Duke Whittington, saw potential. He just needed a little help to realize it.
"Having had yellow Labs in the past, what he was before he went into training wasn't much different than what our other yellow Labs were," Whittington said.
Marlow is the first dog from Moore County to graduate from an innovative new program at the Randolph Correctional Center in Asheboro called "A New Leash on Life." The program is a partnership that gives select inmates the opportunity to develop skills and serve the community by training dogs to be well-behaved pets.
Under the guidance of experienced staff from the Southern Tails School for Dogs, two inmates shared responsibility for Marlow's care and training. Marlow learned basic obedience skills, proper leash etiquette and a few fun tricks, all taught using only positive reinforcement techniques.
Marlow completed the eight-week program in mid-December.
Whittington and his wife, Virginia, both of Eastwood, adopted Marlow the day he graduated from the program, and say that his transformation is nothing short of spectacular.
"I went up a couple of times while we they were working with him in the program, but he is a different dog now. He obeys," Duke Whittington said.
Whittington adopted Marlow in October after reading his story in The Pilot.
"Every dog that I've ever had has been adopted," Whittington said. "We had a yellow Labrador that we had to put down last year. We weren't really looking for another dog, but we saw him (Marlow) in The Pilot and decided it was time to get another dog."
Before his training, it was difficult to just walk Marlow on a leash. Now, in addition to having great manners on the leash, Marlow knows the basics - sit, down, stay, come - among 50 commands. In fact, Marlow learned a record number of commands for a dog enrolled in the program. Opening the mailbox and pushing a person in a wheelchair ware among the skills he learned.
"I am truly amazed in that amount of time that they could turn a rambunctious dog into one who could do all those things in front of people without losing his mind and reverting back to his old self."
Now, Whittington said, Marlow is adjusting to his new life quite well.
"The first couple of days I had him, I was not sure how he would react to where I live. We have no fences on our property and there is lots of wildlife, but after a couple of days he figured out he's got a good deal here."
Whittington said he works with Marlow each day to reinforce his training.
"Every day, we go through his commands, and every day we go out and walk on a leash," Whittington said.
Stickel, a volunteer with the Humane Society, was the first to see potential in Marlow, a dog that was brought to the shelter in May when he was found running loose at Fort Bragg.
Stickel took to Marlow immediately and though he was a handful, she thought he would be a great dog with some proper training.
After learning of the "A New Leash on Life" program from Neil Godfrey, chief deputy of the Moore County Sheriff's Office, Stickel reached out to the program's organizers and was able to get Marlow accepted.
The program has been going for two years, and 10 dogs have been trained. Program coordinator William Clegg called Marlow one of the best.
"Marlow is an amazing dog, and I saw him do some amazing things," Clegg said.
Clegg called the program a win-win for the dog and its owner and the inmates who help train the animals.
"The owner gets a dog that is well-trained, and they (inmate) are actually learning a skill that they can take out into the community ... The program is a new leash on life for them too."
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or tembrey @thepilot.com.
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