Meet A Helping Hero Event at Petco in Tustin

Every year, the Petco Foundation’s national Helping Heroes campaign supports thousands of therapy, service and working animals who bravely dedicate their lives to helping people. We are thankful to be part of this initiative as proud recipients of one of these grants in 2019.

During this annual event we’re partnering with the Petco Foundation to celebrate working animals and raise funds to support organizations like ours.

As many of you know, a few of our rescued canines go on to advance training and become service dogs. We couldn’t do this without our generous donors’ support.

Our scope at Cell Dogs includes: Autism Service Dogs, PTSD Service Dogs, and Wheelchair Service Dogs. This training program typically requires an additional six to nine months after completing the Basic Obedience Training.

This year, Dusty and Bella were out with us so that the public can meet service dogs (aka Helping Heroes) and ask any questions they may have.

Check out Dusty’s story: Bella is still in training.


VA’s 5th Annual Adaptive Sports Expo

Explore, engage, and THRIVE!

For the second time, Cell Dogs was privileged to attend this wonderful annual event. Over 750 people participated including veterans and family, caregivers, staff, and community partners. The first ever Marina Day featured kayaking, rowing, cycling, and paddle boarding!

Cell Dogs had a busy booth on Friday, October 11. In-training service dog Duff was in attendance, making us a hit! Working service dog Ruby also made a special appearance.

At last year’s event, Ruby found her forever home. Read her story and learn more about service dogs here:

We had a chance to walk around and met with some terrific vendors.  We loved this inclusive organization: Look out for their upcoming event in Palm Springs this December. We were also impressed by this all-terrain, lever-drive wheelchair created specifically for dog lovers (with an additional leash hook to allow free roaming). Check it out:

See you next year!

Celebrating 10 Years at O.C. Probation


O.C. Probation celebrates its longest running program.

Cell Dogs’ PAW Program pairs rescue dogs with youth serving commitments in O.C. Probation facilities.

 The 10-year anniversary celebration event will take place at the Orange County Animal Care shelter on October 16th 2019 at 6 pm in Tustin. Invitation only.

SANTA ANA, California, September 9th 2019 – The Cell Dogs’ PAW Program celebrates its longest running rehabilitative program for youth, girls and boys aged 12-18 years. The program is a collaborative effort between local nonprofit Cell Dogs, Inc., O.C. Probation, and Orange County Animal Care shelter.

Cell Dogs’ PAW (Pups and Wards) Program helps rehabilitate minors by teaching them empathy, responsibility, and compassion. Probation youth live with the animals in their care and are tasked with teaching basic obedience commands and good manners. In return, the dogs teach their human companions responsibility, respect, and the rewards of unconditional love.

The PAW Program has impacted Orange County communities since 2009 in significant ways. It transforms incarcerated program participants, providing them (and the dogs they train) a valuable second chance at leading productive and responsible lives. Over 130 youth have been positively impacted and over 60 dogs (including a number of emotional support dogs for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder) have been placed into new loving homes. The program also reduces euthanasia rates and costs for local shelters.

Recidivism rates are markedly lower for participating youth, saving taxpayer dollars. California recidivism rates for juvenile offenders are upwards of 55% within the first year of release. Recent research by the University of California Irvine found the recidivism rate for program participants to be just 16%. The Paw Program is one important factor in helping youth learn life skills that contribute to them not returning to an institutionalized life.

The first Paw Program (Pups and Wards) dog arrived in September 2009. The next cycle is planned to start in late September 2019.

“The Juvenile Hall / YLA PAWS program has been in existence for the past 10 years. The program involves connecting youth with a positive social program with puppies, drawing on community resources and engaging youth in pro-social activities and opportunities. The dogs live with the youth as their human caretakers.  This provides a chance for youth to help their K9 friends demonstrate their new skills and tricks and meet prospective new owners. PAWS is a natural fit for the youth we serve!” – Steve Sentman, Chief Probation Officer.

“Our mission is to keep saving lives, healing hearts and providing second chances. Along with our generous donors, our partners make all the difference. The Probation Dept. energetically supports our program and recognizes its positive and rehabilitative effects for both human and canine participants. Our success would not be possible without their many years of devoted collaboration.” – Janette Thomas, executive director of Cell Dogs.


Ricky, a Cell Dog @ OC Probation

We cannot stress enough that we could not do this alone! Along with our generous donors, our partners make all the difference. They energetically support our program and recognize its positive and rehabilitative effects for both human and canine participants. Our success would not be possible without their many years of devoted collaboration.

Read the story of one lucky Cell Dog finding his forever home!

The following article appeared in the Orange County Probation Department’s quarterly newsletter (Volume 2, Issue 2, 2018).

An Amazingly Unique Experience

The Cell Dogs program, formerly known as PAW (Puppies and Wards) program started at Orange County Probation in 2009. After a long stint at (YLA) Youth Leadership Academy, the program relocated in August 2018, across the riverbed to the Youth Guidance Center (YGC).

The program dogs were rescued from a local animal shelter in Tustin. Four youth were selected as the designated trainers caring for the dogs 24/7. The Executive Director Janette Thomas and trainer Janet Rohm assisted the youth in a 4 week course, then an additional 8 weeks of hands on experience teaching their canine students how to instruct the dogs in basic obedience. Upon completion, each dog is adopted into a loving home.

Here is the story about a Probation employee and how he adopted Cell Dog “Ricky.” Saturday October 6, 2018 was definitely a joyous experience for many that day, especially for a scruffy little Terrier named “Ricky”. Ricky was one of the canines involved in the “Cell Dogs” program here at YGC. The other canine was “Tucker”. Ricky and Tucker participated in the program for several months while being trained and housed at YGC. The two went through a rigorous method while learning to become a loving pet for a new family. Unfortunately, however, Ricky was having a hard time convincing interested families that he was as loving and cuddly as he looked. Ricky was appearing to be ‘unadoptable’ and was in desperate need of a family who understood his needs.

Fortunately for Ricky, one staff member was able to observe his true genuine nature, and understood his background enough to comprehend and appreciate this loving animal’s needs. When he learned that Ricky was in need of a home, he began to inquire about all of the failed potential adopter visits and spoke with the unit Supervisor, about adopting Ricky. Shortly thereafter, Executive Director Janette was overjoyed to hear that he had some interest in Ricky. Janette was very excited, because she knew that Ricky had issues with his past first impression experiences with potential adopters, because of his problem meeting new people. This was a perfect opportunity for Ricky to find a home, just in time for the pup’s graduation ceremony.

The staff member was able to take him to a real home and surprise his family that evening. His wife was super excited and could not wait to see the look on their six-year-old daughter’s face. Ricky did awesome, even on day one. Their two teenage boys are very familiar with dogs and knew exactly what to do with a timid pup. Even one that was as cute as Ricky was. It felt really good to make so many individuals happy that day, all with one decision. It did not take long for Ricky to become fully acclimated to his new family and new environment.

Today the connection is inseparable. Ricky knows where he belongs and he continues daily to bring happiness to his new family. This destined opportunity was genuinely an amazing unique experience, thanks to all of the individuals that support opportunities such as this one!

Announcing a $15,000 Petco Foundation Grant

We wanted to share the good news! We are, once again, the proud and grateful recipients of the Petco Foundation’s generous donation.

The Petco Foundation investment will help us expand the training programs by covering the numerous costs involved in providing a chance at a better life for more animals, inmates and adoptive families. It will also contribute to the advanced training programs for canines who show potential in becoming service dogs.

Every year, the Petco Foundation’s national Helping Heroes campaign supports thousands of therapy, service and working animals who bravely dedicate their lives to helping people. We are thankful to be part of this initiative.

If you are interested in what it takes to become a service dog, ready Ruby’s story.

Ruby’s Story – A service dog’s journey

During our training courses, some dogs prove to be quick studies in basic obedience. Expressing an eagerness to learn and do more, these canines are then given advanced training to become service dogs.

The Americans with Disabilities Act states “Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with disabilities. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.”

Our scope at Cell Dogs includes: Autism Service Dogs, PTSD Service Dogs, and Wheelchair Service Dogs. This training program typically requires an additional six to nine months after completing the Basic Obedience Training.

Here is Ruby’s story, from shelter dog to certified service animal.

From abandoned pet to well-trained pup

We first met Ruby in August 2017 when she landed at the local animal shelter. Because she had a microchip, she had to remain at the shelter for 10 days prior to being available for adoption. Can you believe Ruby’s owners never came to pick her up? To secure her for the program, we waited from 5 p.m. until 10 a.m. the following day, to be the first in line to secure her adoption – purebred labs are a rare find. Ruby was of course well worth the wait as she has blossomed into an amazing service dog for a veteran struggling with PTSD.

Though she was beautiful, she was also something of a wild-child.  Whoever had her before, it was obvious they didn’t teach her any manners or basic obedience.  She had a ton of unbridled puppy energy and had been given no structure to express it appropriately.  What we noticed right away was her desire to be with people and a willingness to please.  We saw that she was smart and we wondered if she might have what it takes to be a great service dog.  Aside from those musings, we already knew that Ruby’s lack of previous training and terrific amiability with other creatures (both humans and other dogs!) made her a great candidate for basic training.

The program trainers immediately fell in love with Ruby and embarked on the 8-week training session.  Lead trainers Kimmie and Mayra spent every day teaching her basic commands.  When we came in each week to gauge everyone’s progress and offer further instruction, we often had our mouths open in happy surprise: we knew Ruby was smart, but we had no idea just how swiftly she would learn all the basics.  It was early on in the 8-week training cycle when we decided to advance her to service dog training after her graduation.  Over the course of 8 weeks, both her trainers did fantastic work transforming Ruby from “Dogzilla” into a well-trained pup.

Advanced training

When Ruby graduated last November, we passed the leash off to our service dog trainer, Anna.  Something our facility programs cannot offer is exposure to all different kinds of environments.  This is a crucial part of advanced training because certified service dogs accompany their partners absolutely everywhere: grocery stores, airports and airplanes, doctors offices, restaurants.  A properly trained service dog is well-behaved in any scenario regardless of sights, smells, and any kind of traffic movement (people, children, other dogs, inanimate objects, etc.).

So Anna began the 8-months-long process of thoroughly socializing Ruby and acclimating her to myriad stimuli in different environments.  Together, they worked on strengthening Ruby’s mastery of basic commands in public places offering lots of distractions.  On top of that, Anna began teaching Ruby advanced tasks like Tug, Nudge, and Retrieval with various items as well as responding to emotional difficulties for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Service Dogs also learn that once the jacket is on they are in working mode.

Customized training

In spring of 2018, someone reached out to us about needing a service dog.  Gabriel, a former marine struggling with PTSD from tours of duty in Afghanistan, was looking for a service canine that could help with his PTSD symptoms. The initial meet and greets with Gabriel and his family went very well. Gabriel and his family were very excited about the possibility of getting a service dog, and unafraid of the commitment and work it would take to achieve their goal.

Once we identify the potential client for the dog, we customize the training to their needs. As Anna continued working to polish Ruby’s know-how, she staged night terrors during sleep as part of Ruby’s schooling.  Within no time, Ruby would leave her own bed to go over to Anna’s bedside and nuzzle her awake if Anna thrashed or vocalized long after the lights were out.

Once the dog is trained, but prior to placement in a new home, we work together with the client and dog to strengthen their ability to become a great working team. Although service dogs improve the quality of life for the person, the transition is not easy. To help ease Ruby’s transition from her trainer to become Gabriel’s working partner, the new pair participated in a series of public outing training sessions from June until the end of August. These sessions provided Gabriel an opportunity to learn to work more confidently with Ruby, while Anna stood in the background ready to lend a hand if needed.

Initially, it was very tiring and overwhelming for both Gabriel and Ruby as she was used to working with an experienced handler. Although Gabriel was on a steep learning curve, it was obvious that Ruby was a great working partner for him! After working together for nearly 3 months, both Ruby and Gabriel were ready for the next step: bringing Ruby to Gabriel’s home for bonding and the final phase of training.

Forever home

When Anna dropped Ruby off at Gabriel’s home on August 31st, somehow Ruby knew she had arrived at her final destination. She was very excited to see Gabriel and his family and thrilled with all the new toys they had waiting for her. When Anna was ready to leave, Ruby came over to give her a gentle nuzzle then sat beside Gabriel as if to say, “I’ve got this! You were a great teacher, now it’s my turn to go to work.”

After a great bonding weekend, the work continued with multiple training sessions each week. Our trainer helped optimize some in-home scenarios to streamline Ruby’s adjustment to her new home, and practiced with Ruby and Gabriel in countless locations to evaluate and ensure their comfort level and appropriateness. Despite the initial jitters of working in more distracting environments, the pair continued to exceed our expectations with their swift progress.

Public Access Test (PAT)

By the middle of October it was obvious they were bonded and ready for their Public Access Test, allowing us to certify them for a year as a working pair. Gabriel knew he and Ruby had worked really hard to make great strides and was confident they would pass, but confessed to having “butterflies” before the evaluation began. As we watched how Gabriel and Ruby easily handled all the required exercises in a busy mall, we also saw other shoppers stop in amazement as this new service dog team confidently navigated all types of distractions along the way.

On Thursday, October 25th Gabriel and Ruby passed their Public Access Test with flying colors! We are so proud of their accomplishment and we’re extremely proud of the important role our team played in making Gabriel’s dream a reality.

Cell Dogs regularly checks in with working pairs and re-certifies every year to ensure both dog and handler are well and working well together.


Cell Dogs @ the Veterans + Labor event

Cell Dogs has been training service dogs for many years and, in 2017, our program expansion began including service dogs for veterans with PTSD. Please read more here or better yet, come on over and talk us at the event.

Hope to see you there!

Please find event details here:

2018 Veterans Event OCFair

Support Cell Dogs with Amazon Smile


You can support us simply by doing your usual Amazon shopping at!

You shop, Amazon contributes 0.5% of all qualifying purchases.

Here is how:

Please remember to do all your shopping at and Amazon will donate to your favorite charity – Cell Dogs!

If you haven’t set this up yet, you can follow these simple steps:

1. Visit (you’ll always need to start your shopping here instead of just

2. Sign in and choose Cell Dogs, Inc. as your organization to support.

3. Enjoy shopping and donating 0.5% of your purchase to Cell Dogs.

4. Please share with your friends.

(If you are already signed in to support a different organization and you’d like to change to Cell Dogs, Inc., you can click on the name of your current charity under the search bar.)

The Impact of Cell Dogs

Our mission is to harness the power of the human-animal bond and transform lives by setting a new course for shelter dogs and incarcerated individuals. By providing second chances, we make a lasting difference in our communities.

Please read about program trainer Jodi K.’s experience to see the difference these programs can make.

“Being part of the Cell Dogs program has been an experience that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.  Just being chosen to participate and be a part of this program, watching the transformation of the dogs, has been an honor and has been life-changing.

Personally, I know firsthand what it feels like to be given up on.  I know that some of the choices I have made in life were not good ones.  Sometimes we mess up and it’s easy to regret the past, but it’s during hard times and struggles that we learn to be stronger.  Hopefully, we learn from our mistakes instead of repeating them, and figure out how to change for the better.

Cell Dogs helped me to realize that when you give anyone, dog or human, another shot at life, extraordinary things happen.  It has taught me to never give up.  It has shown me that when we work hard and give something our all (including love, cuddles, and especially positive reinforcement), even roses can grow from cracks in the pavement.

Thank you for letting me be a part of this program.”

Jodi K.

For more fan mail from trainers, adopters and our partners, please go to:


KFI AM 640 – Interview with Janette Thomas

Early bird – Janette Thomas, executive director of Cell Dogs, Inc. – already done with a radio interview this morning! (It was at 5.20 am…). Luckily, we can listen to it whenever we want.

KFI AM 640 – Wake Up Call’s Jennifer Jones Lee asked about the program and, of course, Giving Day 2018.

Listen to the interview

In the LA Times again – Times OC section

We couldn’t be more excited for all the interest in our work!

The Los Angeles Times ran its Cell Dogs article again, this time in the Times OC section, a Times Community News publication serving Orange County.

Cell Dogs GIVING DAY 2018

Giving Day 2018

We are working on our one and only fundraising campaign of the year:

Cell Dogs – GIVING DAY 2018

The date is the 26th of September and it will be a 30-hour event (9/26 6am – 9/27 12pm) when we will be actively asking for donations for our cause.

We have already asked our adopting families to help us with peer to peer fundraising and now we are asking all our supporters to help us continue the important work we feel we do.

A letter from our executive director, Janette Thomas

“This year we celebrate our 10th Anniversary and I’m extremely proud of we’ve accomplished! As many of you know, initially I was a “one man band” working with correctional institutions and shelters in the LA and OC areas. As interest and the number of programs grew, it was no longer possible to keep up with the momentum thus I strategically selected key resources to ensure the longevity of our organization.

Since 2008, we have trained and placed 300+ dogs in loving homes or as dedicated service dogs. Today, I am extremely proud of my six team members who have the drive and passion to keep the ball moving forward. They have gone “above and beyond” during the past year as I’ve had to endure 2 shoulder surgeries which have limited my “dog wrangling” ability.

In early 2017, the OC Community Foundation decided against hosting their annual Giving Day for participating non-profits.This was disappointing news as we were one of their top performers and received sufficient donations to cover nearly 25% of our operating budget. They might be abandoning this project, but we’re not about to abandon our Mission! We’re always up for a challenge, so we’re conducting our own Cell Dogs GIVING DAY on Sept. 26th with the goal of raising $25,000!

I am forever grateful for your support and belief in what we do, and invite you to participate in this year’s campaign. Help us celebrate our 10th Anniversary by donating on GIVING DAY! Please mark your calendars.

With sincere gratitude,


Please Donate Here!


Summer Wellness Bulletin


With hot temperatures and high humidity, dogs can experience heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heat stroke in dogs can lead to multiple organ dysfunction and, sometimes, death.

Many people already know enough to not leave dogs in their cars on warm days, but fewer realize that dogs can overheat in 90+ degree weather in less than five minutes.

Dogs with darker coloring cannot be left in the heat or sun as long as other dogs. Unlike light colors which reflect light and heat, the color black absorbs light and heat.

Brachycephalic breeds have more difficulty with intake and circulation of air due to their shorter snouts. Since dogs regulate body temperature largely through panting, those that do not breathe well cannot regulate their body temperature properly.

Here are a few important things to keep in mind:

1. Keep water readily available anytime dogs are outside.

2. Dogs should always have access to shade to get out of the sun.

3. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Signs include rapid heart rate and excessive panting/drooling, red ears and bright red tongue, pale gums, thick/sticky saliva, stumbling, and lack of skin elasticity (Pick up the dog’s skin around his neck and release it. The skin should pop back in place. In dehydrated dogs, the skin will remain in a ridge and, the longer it stays in that position, the more severe the dehydration). If you see these signs, cool the dog by immersing him in cool water or wetting the paw pads/underbelly/armpits with cool water (not ice water) before a visit to the vet.

Thank you everyone for looking out for your Cell Dogs or any animals in your care!

OCSD Volunteer Picnic – July 2018

Cell Dogs was recognized for their programs with the OC Sheriff’s Department during the recent OCSD Volunteer Picnic.  Helen and Janette are pictured with Sheriff Sandra Hutchens who “loves, loves, loves our program!”  She has been an avid supporter since the beginning and we will be sorry to see her leave when she retires at the end of the year.

Cell Dogs @ Super Pet Adoption in Irvine

Cell Dogs @ 12th Annual Super Pet Adoption in Irvine

We’re well acquainted with Irvine since one of our training programs (at James A. Musick Facility) has been running successfully there for several years.  Recently, Irvine Animal Care Center organized the 12th Annual Super Pet Adoption and Cell Dogs was happy to participate for the first time.

It was a great turnout and a wonderful opportunity to get the word out about our programs. We hope to be back!  Thank you to all who stopped by.

Cell Dogs @ Cal State Fullerton

Students taking the course “Women and Gender Studies” were on the lookout for a group doing important work in the community.  They found us via Google while searching for a local organization helping the incarcerated. When we noticed that they had posted artwork inspired by our current dogs in training, we found them via Instagram.

“We chose to advocate for this organization in particular because we were able to recognize the work and change that is being made through Cell Dogs. It is important to help as many dogs as we can, especially since shelters are so often over-populated. We were also really intrigued by the emotional rehabilitation that the prisoners may be experiencing from training the dogs. My group and I agree that the incarcerated should be taught basic things like how to care for a dog and the techniques of training and responsibility in order to better themselves as people, hopefully reducing the recidivism rate.”

The presentation took place at Cal State Fullerton on May 10, 2018. Group members included Annalie Cortez, Amanda, and Chai Appling.

Photo – courtesy of Annalie Cortez, Artwork – courtesy of Chai Appling.

Petco Foundation grant

We are so excited to share the news that we have been awarded a $20,000 grant to support our advanced training program that trains dogs that show potential to become service dogs. Our scope at Cell Dogs includes: Autism Service Dogs, PTSD Service Dogs, and Wheelchair Service Dogs.

As you may know, our organization significantly impacts Orange County communities since 2009 in a number of ways. Since its inception, Cell Dogs has successfully rescued, trained and placed over 300 dogs into new homes. The program goes much further than simply reducing euthanasia rates and saving costs at local shelters: it transforms all incarcerated program participants, providing them (and the dogs they train) a valuable second chance at leading productive and responsible lives. Recidivism rates drop significantly for participating inmates. Dog adoption is also made easier as people looking for a shelter pup are not always equipped to handle an untrained or un-socialized animal. Our service animal find their purpose and change lives.

Grants and donations are absolutely critical to our operations, as these are our sole resource. Please consider donating to our cause and mission.

Cell Dogs at the 4th Annual Adaptive Sports Expo

Cell Dogs attended the 4th Annual Adaptive Sports Expo:  Explore, Engage, Thrive! on April 13 hosted by the Spinal Cord Injury Center, Tibor Rubin Medical Center at the VA Hospital in Long Beach, CA.

With over 700 in attendance, our booth was very busy and we talked to a lot of people about our program expansion (training service dogs for individuals with PTSD within our Advanced Training Program). We also learned a lot about the needs and wants of the community.

Bailey and Ruby made appearances and patiently allowed the crowd to recharge by interacting with them appropriately.

The event was extremely successful and informative as we have already received a number of inquiries from veteran attendees who are interested in getting a service dog from us.

Cell Dogs feature in Koiramme – the leading dog magazine in Finland!

We were approached last year by writer Paivi Reijonen for an article on Cell Dogs in Koiramme, Finland’s biggest dog magazine.  She felt it’d be interesting for readers since Finland doesn’t have any prison dog programs (yet). Koiramme is a publication that highlights purebreds, yet she found our program exemplary and wanted to share our mission with Finnish dog enthusiasts.

We are working on the translation!

Koiramme, December 2017

A donation from Harvard students

Harvard students in the course Philanthropy and Nonprofit Organizations recently made a wonderful donation to Cell Dogs! Funds were generously provided by the Philanthropy Lab, a program that supports philanthropy education in universities across the nation.

The students said, “We have been deeply impressed with the work Cell Dogs has been doing in bringing shelter dogs and incarcerated individuals together, and with the organization’s cost-effectiveness and demonstrated impact. It is our pleasure to provide funding that will support, and help expand, your mission.”

Sincere thanks to Gabriella Aguirre, Julia Bunte-Mein, Dahlia Huh, Jessica Li, Zachary Steigerwald-Schnall, and Professor Shai Dromi! We’re delighted to put this donation towards our advanced training program.

UPDATE! – March 26, 2018.

Great news! We just received an additional donation from the Harvard group to support our mission of providing second chances all around. We are grateful and will continue to expand our advanced training program.

Home for the Holidays?

Janette Thomas, the heart and soul of Cell Dogs, shares good advice for those considering shelter dog adoption. Training and caring for a pup requires time and money, and adopting a dog is an important decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Finding your four-legged best friend can be the best (Christmas) gift ever, but we suggest you do thorough research and ask yourself a few basic questions before heading out the door. To help you get started, please watch this video made by staff at Orange County Animal Care.

Alternatively, you can opt for adopting one of our training graduates. Please have a look at our adoption application as well as information on the process here:


Training Program Expansion

Training Program Expansion

In celebration of Veteran’s Day, Cell Dogs is proud to announce its program expansion to include training and placing dogs with veterans who live with PTSD.

We are excited about this new opportunity and would appreciate your help sharing this info with individuals who might benefit from one of our PTSD service dogs. As always, please send all inquiries to

Oreo’s Journey



During a recent Cell Dogs event, we ran into one of our special graduates: Oreo!

Oreo began training at OC Probation in 2015 and, once he completed the class, we had his ACL (Anterior cruciate ligament – a not uncommon big dog injury) repaired.  Oreo weighed 118 pounds prior to surgery, and the vet wanted him to lose about 20 pounds to optimize his chances for a full recovery.  We tried everything from a reduced calorie diet to 6 weeks of hydrotherapy since he wasn’t able to walk very well.  Oreo was a real trooper once he got used to the therapy tank, and was named “Star of the Month” by Orange Veterinary Hospital staff for his brave heart and gentle nature.

Our friends at OC Probation allowed an additional four-week stay for Oreo’s post-surgery rehab.  His trainer Isaac did an amazing job helping him during recovery, working with Oreo multiple times a day.  Staff was impressed with Isaac’s focus and dedication to Oreo’s well-being and, because of Isaac’s loving care, he made a full recovery.

As you can see from the picture, Oreo looks amazing and Mike couldn’t be happier with his beloved family member.  What a difference a lifestyle change and loving home can make!

Cell Dogs in the News on NBC4

Breaking news! Cell Dogs was featured on NBC4 this past Sunday (10/22) as part of the Life Connected series following the 11 pm news.

Vikki Vargas, Orange County Bureau Chief for NBC4 had met Janette during the Clear the Shelters event at OC Animal Care this September. She was unaware that our programs were in local correctional facilities and was curious to learn more.

After securing the required clearance documents, Vikki and her crew visited one of ourtraining sessions at the James A. Musick facility in Irvine, CA. They also met with Janet Q. and Dusty to get her perspective on how her service dog has positively changed her life!

Did you miss it? No problem! You can catch up on the website below:

Lab with an Orange Chew Toy

Bailey the dog next to his portrait

Bailey’s fun personality and ridiculously good looks inspired her new family to take countless photos of her. But Mimi Cora, the artist in the family, went a step further and utilized one of the photos to paint Bailey’s portrait. She used a printmaking process called “monoprinting,” a one-of-a-kind painting on plexiglass transferred to paper. Enjoy!

Refresh Bootcamp

Dogs: Gracie and Griffin

Gracie and Griffin were both adopted several years ago by Most Rev. Kevin Vann, Bishop of Orange County. Over time, the dogs began displaying some undesirable habits. Many people assume that if a dog has initial training, all that schooling will stay with them throughout life. But, similar to humans, dogs who don’t maintain good manners through practice backtrack on what they’ve previously learned. When people neglect training and ignore their dog’s unattractive behaviors, things can get out of hand. And that’s when Cell Dogs steps in for tune-ups. After Gracie and Griffin spent two weeks in bootcamp for a refresher course, their bad habits turned into positive behaviors.

Holly’s Heroes

Holly the dog

Most dogs come into our program from a local shelter after careful consideration, but sometimes a rescue is a bit more complicated. After suffering from a hit-and-run, Holly was an awful rolling bundle smack in the middle of a busy intersection—and that’s when Hannah first spotted her. She immediately scooped up the seriously injured dog and drove to her husband’s veterinarian office.

With professional medical assistance from Hannah and Dr. Woods, Holly (named for the upcoming 2016 holidays) made it through the night. Then the couple contacted Janette Thomas at Cell Dogs and asked for help in looking for the owner. Although the group plastered the neighborhood with flyers, no one came forward to claim Holly. The only phone call received was one saying the owners did not take very good care of their dog.

In the meantime, Holly was making slow and steady progress despite the paralysis in her front left leg. She learned to hobble around the vet hospital and seemed to enjoy the company of other dogs. She was one very lucky pup, as Dr. Woods and his staff lavished her with love and affection while she made the best out of her life-changing event. To improve the chances of keeping her leg, acupuncture and laser treatments were also administered. But after consulting an orthopedic veterinarian, amputation was recommended for a more positive long-term prognosis. Dr. Howard Fischer, DVM, kindly volunteered to do the procedure.

Tracking Holly’s recovery, Janette knew that Holly needed a sound plan to get back on her feet and decided she’d be a good candidate for the OC Probation program. Cell Dogs has trained previous dogs with special needs, but this was a real challenge besides the obvious physical limitations: Holly was suffering from PTSD and emotional insecurities. While fine around assorted pooches and women, she was terribly frightened of cars and fearful around men. So Cell Dogs visited three to four times per week to assist with her post-op physical and emotional rehab program. This process involved lots of short counter-conditioning and desensitization sessions.

After the surgical removal of Holly’s front leg, Cell Dogs brought her into the training program, where she could continue healing. We were happy to see her quickly make friends with the other participating dogs, as well as make real physical progress. Our initial plan was to set aside any basic obedience lessons and simply build Holly’s confidence and emotional stability. Despite that, she was right on track to graduate with the rest of the team!

Holly and another dog

Holly’s unique situation might have discouraged some potential adopters, but one Mrs. Wright responded brightly, “We have two boys with special needs. Why wouldn’t we adopt a dog with special needs?” The Wright family had a dog and three boys (and even a chicken!), and we were curious to see how Holly would react upon meeting them for the first time. It was emotional and magical as they all bonded instantly. On graduation day, many of Holly’s heroes watched her wow the crowd with her newly learned skills.

Each dog that passes through one of our programs has a special story. Holly’s story stands out because the beginning was so unfortunate. But, owing to the overwhelming kindness and generosity of so many people working together, she now has a wonderful life. We would like to thank all of Holly’s heroes once again.

Milo’s Story

Milo the dog with his family

For a young one-year-old pup, Milo has already had quite the life experience! For openers, he was being used as a stud dog for a backyard breeder, and by the time we met him he had fathered two litters.

After some evaluation, we realized he was deaf. The whole middle range of sounds, normal speaking voice, doesn’t exist for him. He can only hear very high-pitched sounds (dogs yipping, pennies in a can) and very low ones (truck rumbles). Since our program dogs are trained to learn commands with verbal cues AND hand cues, this was absolutely not a problem! We added the “thumbs-up” to indicate whenever he followed through on any desired behavior. PLUS a great big smile! Body language communication is important for any dog-human relationship, but we amped this up a bit for Milo. Initially his trainers just thought he was very stubborn until we told them he was deaf. After that, they were even more motivated to learn as much as they could about training deaf dogs to ensure a successful adoption.

Milo’s got a sturdy sense of himself and confidence galore! Despite not being able to hear, he’s very attentive and a quick learner, and he’s always interested in some one-on-one cuddle time. He graduated with flying colors and was adopted by a wonderful couple who found him wandering the streets of Huntington Beach long before he’d entered our program. Thankfully, their dogged determination and the effectiveness of social media brought us together soon after Milo entered our program. He is one lucky puppy, and we couldn’t be happier for him and his new family!

The Sheriff’s Picnic

Janette, Helen, and Sheriff Sandra Hutchens

Janette and Helen of Cell Dogs attended a Volunteer Appreciation Picnic, hosted by Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and OCSD Executive Command and Inmate Services staff. Inmate Services has over 700 volunteers who donate their time to dozens of programs and classes. These services largely fall into three categories: religious services, 12-step programs, and tutoring. We are the one and only dog program! Dan Connelly, Team Leader for Volunteer Coordinating, did another fabulous job organizing the event—fun and full bellies were had by all.

Volunteer Recognition by the Orange County Sheriff


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