He looked so tired, as if his last burst of energy had left his body a long time ago. His physicality reminded me of the elegant Nubians I had seen in Egypt.
Last Sunday Arthur and I had hopped aboard the jitney that would take us to Lincoln Road for a stroll along the shops, flea market stalls and farmers markets. It is on this jitney that I encountered the weary traveler.
He sat sideways, giving me a view if his hard hat. Small stickers of butterflies and turtles were placed in childlike angles on his hat. Stickers that I recognized from those my grandchildren would stick all over anything that was not moving.
Hesitant to invade his space on the almost empty bus, I couldn’t help but eject myself into his silent space because he looked so weary, so alone.
“Did your children put those stickers on?”, I asked just a little above a whisper, hoping I wasn’t offending him.
He turned and looked a me and in a quiet recognition of my interest in his hat, shook his head up and down.
“You know they love you, don’t you?”
My words seemed to float into the empty space between us. Hanging. Silence.
And then in his weary voice he lowered his head looking at his weathered hands in his lap and replied so quietly, “I hope so. I hope so.”
I wanted to assure him, but I just smiled in reply. I wanted to tell him I know so. This grandma knows when your children or grandchildren put their precious stamps on your things, it makes you theirs to keep. Each time you look at those stickies, a part of their little souls will travel with you no matter how far. Smart little critters. All of them!
She was running. Running from what she could never reveal. Running to go home, sorry she ever left? Running for her life? We’ll never know because the authorities picked her up before her end game could unfold. If she even had one.
She must have decided her escape route would be the backroads of Oldham, a small town north of Lexington in Kentucky. Safer, or maybe a better way home. The county sheriff apprehended her. Ended her plans. Picked her up with her hair all askew, her primitive tattoo obscured by the unwashed skin on her stomach. She was a mess in more ways than one. Nothing else to do but throw her in prison. Lock her up safely behind bars to keep her from running again.
Well actually it was the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, the first security institution to be built in Kentucky since the Kentucky State reformatory in 1937. The mission there is to prepare incarcerated felons to be capable of contributing to society in a positive manner upon release through the use of constructive classification, program and work assignment opportunities. What better place for her.
It was during her eight week incarceration there, that I first heard about Frannie through my daughter, Alison. She has always been active in rescuing those in need and when she met with Frannie, she immediately realized that her mother and Frannie would be able to help one another. Kindred souls, so to speak.
Frannie was in Camp Canine at the correctional complex, a joint venture between The Humane Society, Animal Control and Dr. Phil Heye LaGrange Animal Hospital. The program has 14 inmates and 12 dogs. Twelve trainers,one clerk and one janitor to take care of the messes. The inmates are responsible for the dogs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Frannie was assigned to one of those inmate handlers. During the course of this program the dogs are trained in basic obedience commands, so they will be more adoption friendly. Each dog must pass the AKC “Canine Good Citizens Test”.
I was on pins and needles during Frannie’s jail time. I was accepted as her adoptive mother, so that hurdle was jumped, but would she pass her tests and graduate? With my three children (none of whom have ever been in jail, thankfully) I had already been there and done that, so I was not too keen at my ‘over fifty’ age on going through this one more time. I was in love with my new little girl and did not want to be heartbroken if she had to stay longer or, as in some cases, not graduate at all.
Finally, the call came and I boarded a Continental flight to Cincinnati where Alison drove me to the Correctional Complex. Without phone or anything that would ‘bling’ I passed through the metal detectors and my Frannie was brought out with a bright yellow lead around her neck. She was beautiful and, for me, it was love at first sight. She was a year old cream-colored Lhasa Apso with a flowing plumed tail curled over her back. I cried. The administrator cried. I was told Frannie’s handler (we are both anonymous to one another) also cried as he handed her over for her jail walk to meet her new mother.
My husband’s late mother was named Frannie, so it was rather awkward calling our new dog the same name. Frannie quickly became Sofi (we live in Sofi in South Beach, Florida) and she has been a wonderful part of our family for four years now. Each Christmas Sofi sends a card to the folks at Camp Canine with a request to hand it over to her handler. And every time she curls next to me or looks up at me with that sweet face, I am so glad that she got in trouble and wound up in prison. Sometimes prison can be a good thing under certain circumstances. Incarceration in her case gave both of us a second chance for a new and better life.*
*My husband and I had been mourning the death in the months prior to finding Sofi our six year old Harley, a Shih Tzu.