Juvenile completes program with pet's help (video)
Feb. 29, 2012 at 6:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 29, 2012 at 9:01 p.m.
Pets offer companionship
Inmates at the Victoria Regional Juvenile Justice Center learn empathy from a puppy named Alice.
How to help
The Dream Seekers program is taking donations toward the construction of a dog obstacle course. Monetary donations and offers to help build the obstacle course are welcome. All monetary donations are tax deductable and can be made through Adopt-A-Pet. Please specify the adoption is for the Dream Seekers program. For more information, contact Adopt-A-Pet at 575-7387 or visit www.adoptapetvictoria.com. People interested in donating toward the rebuilding of Devin's home fence and the future adoption of a different shelter dog, contact reporter Gheni Platenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org, who will direct them to the appropriate contact.
Dream Seekers, a collaboration between Victoria Adopt-A-Pet and the Victoria Regional Juvenile Justice Center, seeks to pair selected juveniles with a rescued dog so the youth will learn about training and care while developing character traits such as patience, responsibility, accountability, compassion and empathy.Devin Olguin, of Williamson County, and DeAndra Moffett, of Dallas County, both 16, were selected to be Alice's trainers after writing the most compelling essays about why they should be chosen for the position. They shared the responsibilities of caring for Alice.Source: Victoria Juvenile Justice Center
"I love her."
That was the simple, yet powerful, message that Devin Olguin hoped his dog Alice understood as he prepared to leave her and his incarceration behind at the Victoria Regional Juvenile Justice Center.
Despite community efforts to keep Devin and Alice together, the two parted company Wednesday morning.
"I hope she doesn't think I abandoned her. I think somehow she can understand," said Devin, as he happily accepted a face lick from a cozily dressed Alice. "I know she really does love me."
Devin, 16, and Alice met in February through the Dream Seekers program, a collaboration between Victoria Adopt-A-Pet and the Victoria Regional Juvenile Justice Center.
Every day, Devin was responsible for taking Alice to the bathroom; making sure she had adequate food and water; taking her to class with him; making sure she received enough exercise; and, most importantly, provided her love and attention.
He even taught her to heel, come, sit, go to the bathroom outside and even stand on her hind legs and put her front paws on the wall along with Devin during pat-down.
Devin had hoped to adopt Alice after his release, but a lack of finances prevented the two from going home together.
However, after the initial story on the pair published last week in the Victoria Advocate, the Juvenile Center, Adopt-a-Pet and the Advocate received calls and emails from readers throughout the state and even overseas inquiring about how they could help Devin adopt Alice.
"I am a sophomore at Martin High School in Arlington and am interested in raising money for Devin so he can adopt Alice," Meghan Clingenpeel wrote in an email to the Advocate. "I plan on asking friends and fellow students for donations to pay for the adoption and anything else that might need to be taken care of."
A web reader, Henryc82960, wrote, "I'm willing to help Devin adopt Alice if he keeps his nose clean and finishes the program. I think this is a very good responsibility teaching tool for kids that still have hope for change."
Another website user, "Unbelievable," offered to donate some dog food.
"It's been overwhelming," said Pama Hencerling, chief juvenile probation officer at the Juvenile Justice Center. "We are wonderfully pleased with the community response."
Devin was also shocked at the response.
"Before, I thought there weren't people in this world who cared. I didn't know there were people who didn't even know me who would want to help me," said Devin. "I could be someone like that who is not selfish. I want to go out of my way and help kids learn from their mistakes."
Alas, the two were not meant to be.
Additional factors such as the lack of a secure fence at his parents' house as well as Devin's mandatory two-month house arrest also prevented him from adopting Alice.
Three days ago, Devin and his assistant trainer DeAndra Moffett, 16, of Dallas County, learned Alice was adopted by a familiar face at the Juvenile Center - clerk Sally Hale.
"I was happy and sad. I'm happy for her because I got to talk to the person who is adopting her. She was nice so I know Alice will like her," said Devin.
DeAndra also shared his thoughts.
"I was kind of angry because I wanted her to go home with Devin. It made me sad. I cried in my room, but it is probably for the best that she can make someone else's life better."
Hale, 50, said Alice stole her heart from the time they first met with her bubbly, energetic demeanor.
"I adored her," said Hale, as she described her family's desire to add a second dog to their household. "She's fantastic."
The Dream Seekers cycle continued on Wednesday with DeAndra taking over as the head trainer for a new dog named Brick, a boxer mix. He is described by Adopt-a-Pet as a big, happy baby with freckles and a survivor of animal abuse.
"He does need a little bit of work," said Carol Klages, president of the Adopt-A-Pet board. "We were so pleased how the program went with Alice that we sent them a bigger dog to work with."
Juvenile Center staff said they plan to expand the program to included the incarcerated girls this month.
Devin, who already has plans to complete his mandated community service by volunteering at an animal shelter in Williamson County, offered some advice to future Dream Seekers participants.
"Don't just try to get through the program just to look good. Dogs really do need love. She made me realize how much I miss being loved."