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.

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!


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