Buddy’s story – A service dog’s journey

Buddy was rescued by our organization in the summer of 2020 from a deplorable backyard situation where his only source of water was a small, algae-filled Halloween candy bucket. His family obtained him as an adorable puppy, but he was quickly designated to life in a backyard.

Sadly, Buddy was extremely isolated from other people and dogs during the first 13 months of his life which severely limited his ability to confidently develop into a well socialized and loving companion. He was sweet, endearing and eager for attention during our evaluation, thus we quickly made arrangements to transfer ownership to our organization.

Thanks to the amazing efforts of our training staff and service dog trainer, Buddy has gone through an amazing transformation during the past 9 months! (Buddy was not able to participate in one of our training programs at a local correctional institution as all programs have been shut down since March 2020 due to the COVID pandemic.)

Initially, Buddy was highly suspicious and agitated around other dogs while walking on a leash. He was not aggressive, but over stimulated due to lack of exposure and socialization as a puppy and young dog. He didn’t know how to meet or interact with other dogs which we resolved through months of monitored dog/dog interactions, socialization, and play dates.

With maturity and ongoing training, Buddy gained a new-found confidence and thoroughly enjoyed engaging with other dogs and people. People were always asking to pet Buddy, during his training sessions, because of his amazing smile and beautiful retriever appearance. Buddy quickly adapted to a new lifestyle and started showing signs that he may be ready for more than just walks in the park.

Since inception, we have been actively identifying and training rescue dogs for service work and recently, with the generous assistance of the William A. Schampeau Charitable Trust, have been training service dogs for disabled veterans. It costs >$20,000 for the training and placement costs associated with finding the perfect match for each client and dog.

Once the dog is ready for placement, we embark on a two-week “Partnership Training Program” with the dog and his intended working partner. This program is not for the faint of heart, as we tell clients “we are about to give you the keys to a Ferrari, but you don’t yet have your driver’s license.” During our 2 weeks together, we methodically and lovingly transition the handling skills to our client so they can become comfortable and confident working in public places with their new canine BFF.

This two-week process is life changing for both the dog and our client. We couldn’t be more excited to announce that we have identified the perfect working partner for Buddy and both of them will be start our “Partnership Training Program” in the coming weeks.

Such placements need careful considerations and we thoroughly vet all applicants and make sure that the right animal gets paired with the right person. In Buddy’s case, this is going to be Harry. Harry lives with his wife Carol here in Orange County. He is a Vietnam Veteran and Purple Heart recipient who has struggled with PTSD and physical challenges since that time. After his honorable discharge from the Marines, he went on to have a career in law enforcement, first with the NYPD and later with the LAPD.

During their initial “meet and greet,” Buddy was invited to spend a few days at Harry’s home. “I am truly speechless & my heart is overflowing. I have NEVER seen Harry so peaceful & content.” shared Carol.

After these successful first few days, the commitment was made to move forward. That way we could personalize Buddy’s service training to coincide Harry’s individual needs. Anna, our certified service dog trainer, will begin partnership training in the next few weeks as Harry and his family make adjustments to get involved in the work.

We couldn’t be more excited for the two of them. Watch this space for updates!

Cell Dogs joins #GivingTuesday 2020

We’re thrilled to join thousands of organizations across the globe participating in the largest Giving Day of the year.

Mark your calendar and please support Cell Dogs on Giving Tuesday: December 1, 2020.

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement, unleashing the power of people to transform their communities and their world. GivingTuesday will kick off the generosity season this year by inspiring people to give back on December 1, 2020, and throughout the year.

Here at Cell Dogs, our training programs have been on hiatus due to Covid-19. While we completely understand why this remains necessary for everyone’s health, it’s been disappointing to not hold classes – our program participants have been experiencing increased isolation due to “no visitors” and “no volunteer programming” rules.

In the meantime, we have continued to rescue, foster, train, and re-home shelter pups. And, just recently, one of our dogs, Duff concluded his yearlong service dog training and was successfully partnered with Sean, an Army veteran.

The simple act of giving is healing and, in these times of social-distancing, restores our ability to connect and do good. Every act of generosity counts as we hope to restart our programs in the correctional facilities in the next few months and continue our mission to provide second chances to people and pups.

We plan to raise $5000 in just 1 day.

Please mark your calendar and support Cell Dogs on December 1st. If you are ready now, our donation page is live!

Thank you for all your support,

Janette Thomas and the Cell Dogs Team


P.S. There are so many other ways to help:

  • Create a fundraiser on Facebook for Cell Dogs and start spreading the news to friends and family. Here’s how.
  • Please remember that your holiday shopping can benefit us without costing you a penny. Set up Amazon Smile and Amazon will automatically donate 0.5% of your purchases. It’s easy!
  • Volunteer your your time or services. Become a foster for Cell Dogs. Read more!
  • Give something tangible form our Essentials Wish List.
  • Sponsor and name one of our program pups. Details here.
  • Donate your vehicle.

GivingTuesday was launched in 2012 as a simple idea: create a day that encourages people to do good. Over the past eight years, this idea has grown into a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

People demonstrate generosity in many ways on GivingTuesday. Whether it’s helping a neighbor or stranger out, showing up for an issue or people we care about, or giving to causes we care about, every act of generosity counts.

GivingTuesday has raised billions of dollars for critical causes around the world and gets 14.2 billion impressions on social media from people and organizations speaking up for the causes that matter to them and encouraging others to get involved.

Petco Foundation Grant

We could not be more grateful, this October, for the 6th year, we are proud recipients of a Petco Foundation Grant!

We are thrilled to be recognized by the @PetcoFoundation for our work with service animals. The $5000 investment will help us continue to help animals and people in Orange County and beyond live their best lives.

This year, due to the pandemic, we had to pivot from our usual course and continue our work by fostering and training our rescued dogs at our trainers’ home. The Petco Foundation investment will help us keep our training programs running by covering some of the numerous costs involved in providing a chance at a better life for more animals, inmates and adoptive families or communities. It will also contribute to the advanced training programs for canines who show potential in becoming service dogs.

We were able to say thank you to our local Petco Team, and have a socially distanced ‘Award Ceremony’ in November 2020.  Special guests: Janette with Bella and Gabriel with Ruby.

Investments are made possible through the Petco Foundation’s annual Helping Heroes campaign, which supports shelter pets that dedicate their lives to saving and improving the lives of others. Since 2012, the Petco Foundation has invested more than $15 million to support the life-changing work of helping heroes. We are thankful to be part of this initiative.

Duff’s Story – A service dog’s journey

We wanted to share the exciting news that Duff has been placed with a wounded Army Ranger veteran!

Sean, a 46-year-old Army veteran, was disabled during his tour of duty and has been wheelchair bound since 1996. He is supported by a large and loving family and has raised a son. When he recently started looking for a service dog, his niece came across Duff and they contacted us.

After reviewing Sean’s application and letters of support and conducting interviews on Zoom, we decided to arrange a meet & greet. In September, Sean and his mother traveled from Las Vegas to meet Duff and work with Anna and Janette for Partnership Training. The plan, over a few days, was to focus on transitioning and bonding.  If all went well, Duff and Sean would become a team and begin their new life together.

Duff’s Advanced Training

Training a service dog takes years and the cost is often $20,000+. Thanks to a generous donation from The William A. Schampeau Charitable Trust, we received funding. Once we found Duff, everything was on path for this amazing moment: his placement.

Duff had been with Anna, our dedicated service dog trainer, for more than a year. Thanks to her loving care and guidance, he transformed remarkably from adolescent Lab mix to confident and loving service dog. When it was time to find his working partner, we actively searched for a few months. Finding the right fit takes time and precision. Having worked with Duff for so long, we had fallen in love with him and knew that the upcoming transition would be bittersweet. But we also knew the ultimate goal was to help Duff become his best self and work as a service dog.

Partnership Training Days

Placement is always an exhausting and grueling process for all involved, but Sean’s positive “can do” attitude coupled with the loving support of his large family made him the perfect client to work with Duff.  As he transitioned to his new working life with Sean, Duff was a super star.

Training Day 1 – Upon meeting for the first time, Sean and Duff really took to each other! Shortly afterwards, they and the Cell Dogs team headed to the mall, a busy spot that’s a good test for partners starting to work together. There’s a lot to learn: getting in and out of elevators and stores in a wheelchair with a dog tethered to the chair’s side, safely opening heavy doors, maneuvering together through tighter spaces, waiting in checkout lines, and issuing timely cues/praise for Duff to retrieve dropped items. After a long day of hard work, Sean headed back to his hotel. Duff would spend 2 more nights with Anna.

Training Day 2 – Duff and Sean, feeling more comfortable with each other, rocked their second day!  The new team perfected their skills maneuvering safely in public and Duff learned the loading/unloading process for Sean’s adaptive van. It was wonderful to see Sean’s confidence grow as Duff became more responsive to his voice and command requests (Duff is very food motivated so Sean was well stocked with yummy soft treats to help maintain Duff’s attention amidst LOTS of distractions). Sean learned how to encourage Duff to retrieve dropped objects: keys, cellphone, pencils, loose change, etc. Duff absolutely loves this game and was eagerly happy to respond to Sean’s requests for assistance.  It was awesome watching Sean and Duff really put their hearts into the day’s task work.

Training Day 3 – These transition sessions are not easy, either on the working pair or on the trainers.  Full attention and dedication are required and going through this process in unfamiliar locations adds challenges. There’s a lot to learn about handling, without prior experience, a service dog plus all the myriad new things to learn about each other – Sean compared it to boot camp! Despite any difficulties, these two rocked day 3. At the conclusion of the training session, Duff went back to the hotel with Sean to spend their first night together. This step is always a bit stressful for client and dog since it’s a new situation for both of them. But Sean’s positive attitude helped Duff settle in nicely and he slept like a rock on Sean’s bed. Meanwhile, Sean had to become accustomed to having a 90 pound companion lying next to him (thankfully, Duff didn’t snore)!

Training Day 4 (final session before going home) – We spent quite a bit of time answering questions and troubleshooting minor areas of concern before embarking on a final public outing.  Sean and Duff seamlessly navigated through a busy parking lot and Target store. Duff was very comfortable tethered to Sean’s wheelchair, closely sitting or lying down with ease whenever Sean came to a stop – poetry in motion! It was the end of the day, the end of partnership training and everyone was pretty tired. But we were so very proud of everything that Sean and Duff accomplished during the week. After a final photo session, Sean and Duff said goodbye to our trainers. Though there were tears in their eyes, their hearts were full knowing that Sean and Duff would be amazing working partners and companions.

UPDATE: After going home and settling into routines Sean and Duff continued to work and grow together. Sean and Duff to got ready and passed the PAT (Public Access Test). Our team visited Sean’s home to make sure both are doing well.

Watch this heartwarming video about their ‘love’ story.

Mary Estelle Cosgrove Nash & The William A. Schampeau Charitable Trust, thank you for making this a reality!

Summer Swimmers

Dog Days of Summer are here and it’s extremely important to be mindful of the safety and comfort of our canine companions.

Did you know that most dogs DON’T instinctively know how to swim?

We love to watch videos of dogs having a blast while playing in all types of water, i.e. pools, lakes, streams, etc. They’re having the time of their lives while swimming around to cool off or playing with other dogs and people. What most people don’t realize is that most dogs don’t know how to swim, regardless of their breed, and it’s a learned skill that can save their lives.

Like children, puppies can be fearless when exploring new places and many times will hop into a pool without realizing the potential danger that lies ahead. I’ve heard many people say, “they’re dogs, let them figure it out as they’re born swimmers! Not on my watch!!!

Why not take advantage of a teaching opportunity and help guide the puppy to the steps so it can get out safely? That way the puppy will learn how to get out of the pool safely on their own after a few “training sessions.” Otherwise, you could end up with a puppy/dog that becomes panicked and frantically splashes around without knowing what to do. That negative experience can become a last memory that makes them fearful of water!

If your dog is unsure or fearful of the water, try taking baby steps to help them learn to become comfortable and confident swimmers. We suggest getting in the water with them which encourages them to trust you. Attach a long leash to your dog’s collar as in “insurance policy,” making sure the leash does not get tangled with their legs. When your dog feels comfortable enough to follow you in shallow water, reward profusely with praise and a few yummy treats.

Let them get out of the water at any time as the goal is to make this learning process a positive experience so they’ll want to get back into the water for longer periods of time. Once the dog builds its confidence, they will eventually venture out into deeper water, but their back end may look like it’s sinking. It is, as the dog doesn’t quite know how to use their back legs to swim and maintain a level body profile. The proficiency of that skill improves, along with your dog’s confidence, through your positive leadership.

It may take a few outings for your dog to become an expert swimmer, or it may take months. Every dog is different and learns at their own pace and some dogs will decide swimming is not for them, which is absolutely fine! We love them for who they are and how they enrich our lives. I have had many Labs during my lifetime and only ONE truly loved to swim. Just like people, one size does not fit all, so please be patient and help your puppy/dog become the best they can be!

Sunny’s Story

(Blog by Lynn Middleton)

Sunny was placed at the Orange County Animal Care Centre having been picked up from the streets of Anaheim, where she was roaming free. Her condition was somewhat compromised; she was very dirty, her toe nails were a little long and she had clearly recently been suckling pups. Sadly we had no information on her pups or their whereabouts.

On Friday June 19th, 2020, Janette Thomas and Lynn Middleton of Cell Dogs, met Sunny for the first time.

Clearly very scared, she would not engage with us, but after a few minutes of gentle interaction, we got in a position where we could make physical contact with her. This was just what the doctor ordered and after about 20 minutes of this initial, ‘through the bars’ contact, we were able to get her on a leash and out to a grassy run. Within minutes the transformation came to light. Sunny happily came to both of us for cuddles, rolled over for tummy rubs and playfully darted between Janette and Lynn. It was clear that this little dog had great potential and a desire to be loved and cared for.

We decided to give her a bath and to get her all cleaned up (also another way to find out more about her disposition). She was a superstar and tolerated all the fuss and rubbing that was required to rid her of her street grease and dirt. She even allowed us to blow dry her coat, which is a big ask of many dogs.

Sunny was endearing herself to both of us the longer we spent with her. We made a visit to the laundry room to get fresh blankets for her bed, when she decided that she needed a nap, so where better than to snuggle into the blankets and beds on the bottom shelf of the quiet, dark laundry room! Super cute but this also told us just how worn out she was.

The decision was made to give Sunny another chance and so Lynn took her home. She seemed to us a great little dog who deserved to be loved and cared for!

(Our programs are on hold due to the pandemic but we are still finding ways to rescue and train pups, and find their forever homes.)

Cute as she is, Sunny had one or two behaviors that would need to be ‘undone’. As a street dog she had learned to be resourceful. So what’s the big deal in stealing food from the table? Probably, she also had to be very protective of her pups, so she had learned to ‘stand up’ for herself. This was something we had to address.

Slowly she began to de-stress and her anxiety levels lessened. She was initially Lynn’s shadow; everywhere she went so did Sunny! Her confidence and positivity grew daily and soon she was exploring the garden on her own, finding safe, shaded spots in which to relax (again a throwback to her days on the streets). Sunny struggled with being in a crate and being left alone, such were her separation fears. She would pull apart towels and beds in her crate when left, even for short periods of time. These re-adjustments take time to make and so that’s what we focused on.

By Day 5 Sunny was showing signs of being much calmer. She was snapping less at Lynn’s dog Rowan and she also willingly started to offer some play behaviors, which require a tremendous level of trust. Lynn was delighted, and grateful to Rowan for being so patient and such a great ‘big sister’.

Sunny made wonderful progress in the week she had been in a safe and loving environment and had shown that she is a darling pup who loves nothing better than to be held and cuddled. She is a fast learner and was now engaging with the little games that we use to teach her new things and a few manners. She was now eating really well and loved the stimulation provided to work for her food, so in essence, we had ‘Ditched the Bowl’.

Sunny had several longer hikes and coped exceptionally well with these. She was not afraid of mountain bikes or other hikers, so copes with novelty quite well. It was important to get her used to other people and to build trust in folks other than her trainers. Janet, another trainer with Cell Dogs, is a great person to have on board and we set about working with Sunny to build this trust that she perhaps lost a little of during her more challenging time before coming to us.

Sunny is also great in the car! She is calm and loves to ride along wherever we are going. After three weeks, we have also only had a few little accidents in the house, so it seems that she is house-broken too! She loves a bit of gardening. Not the kind that we  much appreciate however, as the holes she digs are not enhancing the aesthetics of the yard!

Sunny enjoyed her 4th of July holiday but she had to take it easy as she was spayed on June 30th. She healed well and we made sure that she stayed calm until her sutures were taken out two weeks later.

Her confidence continues to grow but she is still very bonded with Lynn and this is something we are continually working on. Her independence training is slowly developing and she will be ready for her forever family in no time!

Chapman’s Philanthropy Grant awarded to Cell Dogs

More good news! The Panther Experiential Philanthropy Project (PEPP) at Chapman University’s Donna Ford Attallah College of Educational Studies has awarded a $1000 grant to help fund Cell Dogs’ mission. We are so grateful for this recognition!

For their assignment, students Frank Burgess, Aaron Vilaubi and Kara Ward examined community problems and researched local nonprofit organizations. Along with other students looking at other nonprofits and pertinent issues, they scheduled site visits and submitted grant applications for their chosen organization. The entire class then evaluated the grant proposals and selected a nonprofit organization in which to invest funds.

As part of the Zoom presentation given by Frank, Aaron, and Kara, Gabriel and Ruby spoke about Cell Dogs’ life-changing advanced training program for service dogs. The class was impressed by the quality of Cell Dogs’ programming and level of commitment for the community.

Chapman’s PEPP Program utilizes a “learning by giving” approach. This philosophy behind experiential philanthropy offers college students the opportunity to study social problems and nonprofit organizations, and then make decisions about investing funds in them. Students, entrusted with a fixed sum of money, award one or more nonprofits through a group-based decision-making process. Rather than just throw money at problems, students are taught to actively seek philanthropic solutions.

Janette Thomas accepted the grant via ZOOM on 5/4/2020.

Janet Rohm receives 2020 Spirit of Volunteerism Awards

2020 Spirit of Volunteerism Awards

Janet Rohm, one of our dedicated and amazing volunteers, has been selected as one of this year’s recipients of the OC Spirit of Volunteerism awards, organized annually by OneOC!

The 2020 Spirit of Volunteerism Awards Virtual Celebration took place on Thursday, April 30.

What started out as a casual relationship, while evaluating dogs at local shelters, developed into a strong and dedicated commitment to Cell Dogs when Janet retired from her private practice several years ago. She is always on the lookout for potential training candidates for our programs and currently has responsibility for a program at OC Probation.

Regardless of all the moving parts involved with each of our programs, Janet is always eager to learn new skills and assume additional responsibilities with a heartwarming smile.

Cell Dogs is very lucky to have Janet as part of our organization and is extremely proud that her volunteer accomplishments are being recognized! 🐾❤️

The OC District Attorney’s Office is celebrating the Spirit of Volunteerism honorees with congratulatory letters!

The OC Register included an article listing all the SOV honorees. See here: https://www.ocregister.com/2020/05/02/oneoc-announces-spirit-of-volunteerism-honorees/

OneOC created a profile for all honorees: check out Janet’s information.

You can also access the celebration on OneOC’s website at http://www.oneoc.org. Look for the Spirit of Volunteerism Awards on the menu bar at the top of the home page.

100 Companies That Care Grant

Some nice news!

Cell Dogs recently received a $1,500 grant from 100 Companies That Care.

100 Companies That Care is a local organization comprised solely of local businesses.  Their aim is to foster a culture of philanthropy within Orange County’s business community. Every quarter, members nominate qualifying non profit organization for grants.  Cell Dogs, nominated for the first quarter of 2020, was awarded $1,500 to support our mission.

Thank you to our local business community!

Learn more about 100 Companies That Care.

100 companies that care logo

Orange County Community Foundation – Celebration of Giving

At this year’s Family Foundation’s luncheon, Janette Thomas and Bella (a surprise guest!) were honored by the opportunity to talk about Cell Dogs’ programs.  Father Gregory Boyle, from Homeboy Industries, was the main speaker.  Homeboy Industries helps previously-incarcerated men and women, so it was a perfect fit to feature our work at this wonderful event.

The “Celebration of Giving’ event was hosted by the Orange County Community Foundation at The Pacific Club in Newport Beach on December 4th.

Janette and Bella with Shelley Hoss (President of OCCF). Photo credit: Kait McKay Photography

Thank you, Santa Ana Elks!

The Santa Ana Elks invited Janette to talk about the mission of Cell Dogs and presented her with a generous donation.

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the U.S.A. is a fraternal organization with chapters nationwide. As part of their mission, the Elks serve the people and communities through benevolent programs.

Thank you, Santa Ana Elks!  We are grateful for your support.

10 years of Cell Dogs at O.C. Probation – Recognition by Orange County Supervisor Donald P. Wagner

O.C. Probation celebrated its longest running program for girls and boys aged 12-18 years: Cell Dogs’ PAW (Pups and Wards) Program. The 10-year anniversary event took place at the Orange County Animal Care shelter on October 16th 2019 in Tustin.

The PAW Program pairs rescue dogs with incarcerated youth in O.C. Probation facilities and is a collaborative effort between Cell Dogs, Inc., O.C. Probation, and Orange County Animal Care shelter.

In recognition for ongoing commitment and hard work, all 3 organizations received a Proclamation plaque from Orange County Supervisor Donald P. Wagner’s office.

Pat Buttress – Community Liaison for OC Supervisor Donald P. Wagner and Janette Thomas – Executive Director of Cell Dogs, Inc.























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.

Below are pictures from the festive event as well as the article that appeared in the County Connection and the OCP Newsletters.

2020 OCP Newsletter Article-CD 10th Anniversary

The program’s canine graduates:


Petco Foundation Grant

We could not be more grateful, this October, for the 5th year, we are proud recipients of a Petco Foundation Grant!

We are thrilled to be recognized by the @PetcoFoundation for our work with service animals. The $8000 investment will help us continue to help animals and people in Orange County live their best lives.

The Petco Foundation investment will help us keep our training programs running by covering some of 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.



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 selflessly dedicate their lives to helping people. As part of this initiative, we are thankful and proud recipients of their 2019 grant of $8000.

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, some 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. These specialized training programs typically require an additional six to nine months after completing the Basic Obedience Training.

This year, Dusty and Bella were out with us at a local Petco.  Many people stopped to meet these special service dogs (aka Helping Heroes) and ask questions.

Check out Dusty’s story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1E4ImAvB8g&t=45s. 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: https://www.celldogs.org/2018/11/20/rubys-story-a-service-dogs-journey/

We had a chance to walk around and met with some terrific vendors.  We loved this inclusive organization: https://desertabilitycenter.org/. 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: https://www.gogrit.us/

See you next year!

Celebrating 10 Years at O.C. Probation (Press Release)


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. https://www.celldogs.org/2018/11/20/rubys-story-a-service-dogs-journey/

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


Here is how

Please remember to do all your shopping at smile.amazon.com 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 smile.amazon.com (you’ll always need to start your shopping here instead of just amazon.com)
  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: https://www.celldogs.org/adopt-a-dog/fan-mail/


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 info@celldogs.org.

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


Check out our quarterly newsletter to stay informed about what we’re working on.

Sign up