Lila is officially a lucky dog. The year-old Labrador mix has been selected to take part in Hutchinson’s Lucky Dog program and starting Monday will be under the care of an inmate at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility.
The Lucky Dog program, started in 2002 by Ruth Spitzer and Vicky Hollowell of Hutchinson, pairs dogs in area animal shelters with inmates at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. Three inmates are assigned to a dog and take turns caring for, feeding and training the animal. A trainer works with the inmates to teach the dogs the basic commands of sit, stay, lay down and how to properly care for the dogs.
Like the dogs, the inmates must be selected to participate in the program and only those with no infractions and good behavior are allowed to work with the dogs.
The dogs are then adopted out to families selected by Spitzer and Hollowell. Families and dogs are matched to ensure the new relationship is a successful one.
McPherson Animal Shelter director Sonia Luttig said it is an honor to have a dog selected for the program because the directors are very particular about what dogs are allowed into the program.
“They (Spitzer and Hollowell) are very picky about who they work with,” Luttig said. “They don’t take just any dog so when I got the call that they had an opening I was very excited.”
Luttig said she has known about the program for years and when Spitzer called earlier this week she knew exactly the dog for the job.
“Lila is so well behaved and is very easygoing,” Luttig said. “When they called I said I already had a dog picked out. We’re going to miss her (Lila) but this is a great honor for the shelter.”
After being neutered and receiving a checkup Monday, Lila will depart for her new home in Hutchinson. Although she understands some basic commands, Lila will still undergo training at the correctional facility.
Luttig said Lila’s disposition is perfect for the program and she is happy to know that Lila will eventually end up with a loving family.
“After the dog is adopted they do check-ups after three days, three weeks and three months,” Luttig said. “I’m so happy to know she’ll have a good home.”
Only 5 percent of adoptions in the Lucky Dog program prove unsuccessful. If an owner chooses to return a dog, the animal returns to the correctional facility and remains there until it is successfully adopted.
Luttig said Lila’s acceptance into the program will establish a relationship with the program that will, hopefully, help other dogs at the McPherson Animal Shelter be accepted into the program.
“This is a really great thing for the dogs and the shelter,” Luttig said. “I’m really excited.”