Emotional times

This letter was written by a person incarcerated at Lancaster.

The two outlets that have gotten me through these difficult and emotional times have been (1) my joy of collecting postage stamps and (2) my love for dogs. The daily combination completes and fulfills my life with enjoyment, especially now.

I have been a philatelist since the age of ten. During this “modified program,” I had a chance to organize my humble collection of near one thousand stamps. I send my duplicates to a schoolteacher in Ohio who in turn distributes them to his students. There is a small group of stamp collectors in my building. We share stories of the past regarding our hobby. Non-collectors save stamps from their mail for us. I have quite an assortment but foreign and domestic. I’ve visited nearly 40 foreign countries.

Before coming to prison, I lost most of my personal possessions. My family was able to save my vast stamp collection. They slowly send me certain parts. Mint commemorative sin all different denominations that I place on outgoing mail. I rarely use “Forever” stamps. The multiple stamps I use – about 4 to 5 – must add up to the current 55 cent letter rate. I now have time to match my stamps with person’s interest. I probably have more fun than the person receiving them.

I’m sure people on the “outside” are dusting off their collections. Their hobby has endured wars, famines, and it will outlast this deadly virus. Stamps teach us about geography, history, established customs/traditions, different currencies, and relevant topics that include past, present, and future innovations and inventions. It gives me a chance to escape and travel. The only rules imposed are those of my imagination. This is why philately is known as the “Hobby of Kings!”

Being part of the Paws for Life Dog Program is a dream come true for me. Over 30 dogs lived in my building. Yes, often it does get loud, but their barking is music to my ears. Their unconditional love can’t help but give me comfort and delight. The affection and closeness shared between us has had a calming and peaceful effect on us both. Walking and jogging together in the medium-high-desert – 2,710 feet – is wonderful. Beside short potty breaks, we are allowed outside every other day for three hours. We both return to my room thirsty and exhausted. We relax on my cozy bed until we catch our breath.

Paws For Life is one of the best programs in prison. I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure of being a trainer for the past three years. I’ve helped over 20 dogs get adopted instead of euthanized. I got attached to many of them. A forever home was a loving family is our goal.

One particular dog comes to mind. “Caper” was hit by a car. When he first arrived, we – two friends and myself – had to carry him back and forth to use the restroom.

The first month, we put him through daily physical therapy exercises. Caper seemed to know we were helping him and loved the attention. Massaging and stretching his injured hind leg brought us closer. After a few weeks, his stitches were removed. Caper disliked the cone around his head as his fragile leg healed. He recovered in record time. Since he was only six months old, Caper was a playful puppy. He learned all the basic commands fast! He was adopted almost immediately.

From being wheeled in on a cart and us carrying him outside, to him leaping up on my comfy bed is quite a thrilling event to witness. Our motto is, we work hard so our dogs can have a better life. Caper did his part too! The day he, Caper, left it was raining, so no one could tell I was crying.