Posts tagged ‘healthcare’

February 11, 2013

WOOF! (by Patricia N. Wernert)

“How would you like a puppy?” I was asked. Sounds like a pretty straightforward question that is posed everywhere. I would like to share why that very question was anything but ordinary when I was asked it in the early 1990s.

In 1993, I had been incarcerated 18 years and certainly had not experienced the touch of silky ears or big brown eyes looking at me during this time. I was being offered the unique opportunity of helping to start a prison program of raising puppies for “Pilot Dog.” As puppy raisers, we receive eight-week-old to raise as potential service dogs for visually impaired individuals. In my mind, gosh, what a great opportunity to give back to others.

Puppies require care, love, and gentle direction in learning basic commands. Prison rules put a good deal of added structure into what is usually easy. My puppy may need to “go potty,” but if it is “count time” the puppy has to wait. Try explaining that to an eight-week-old puppy in the middle of the night.

The upside of doing something like this is watching and guiding the tiny puppy as it grows into a beautiful dog. Your time and hard work develop before your eyes. No matter how bad a day you may have, you have to smile at the antics of a puppy. You start smiling, your mood improves, and you respond in a positive manner with other inmates or staff.

One of the few things a person in prison has any control over is how she or he reacts to any situation. Inmates are told when to go to bed, to get up, to perform bodily functions, to go eat, what to eat, what to wear, and what to do in about all aspects of life. I have found that keeping a positive mindset, even when adversity abounds makes a situation easier to get through. Having that puppy trip over its feet or run up to you makes you smile and it defuses whatever negative event that may have transpired earlier.

I am still training dogs in 2012 and 2013, and no one could have told me that I would still be doing it in prison. The incarceration sentence of 20-years-to-life is now approaching 38-to-life. Yeah, that is pretty depressing if I dwell on the negative aspect of this time. I look down on the nine-week-old black Lab I named “Cricket” curled up at my feet and see the positive. I am privileged to raise this puppy and she will eventually give a person freedom.

When a dog is partnered, we see the letter that Pilot Dog sends to the institution, and I feel a ssense of helping another person. We never know the actual name of the person, only if it is a man or woman.

I have worked with training other service disciplines in another prison-based program. This is very worthwhile, too.

Dogs are so much more than pets and capable of doing a wide variety of tasts to help humans live a fuller and safer life. If you happen to see a service dog guiding its person along, it just might be a dog that began its service in a prison. People in prison can begin to their future, too. We just need a chance.



Editor’s Note:  Patricia N. Wernert is incarcerated at Dayton Correctional Institution. She is one of the leaders in a special program that helps raise dogs that provide future assistance to visually impaired individuals.



January 17, 2012

Interview – Christine M. Grote, Author of Dancing in Heaven

RED! the breakthrough ‘zine Interview with Christine M. Grote

RED! contributing writer, Elizabeth Bryant, recently interviewed RED! writer and blog/technical consultant, Christine Grote, about the publication of her first book, DANCING IN HEAVEN: A Sister’s Memoir.  It is an evocative exploration of the life and death of Christine’s sister, Annie.  The book delves deeply into the complexities of caregiving and the endless – and endlessly loving – attention the family gave toward assisting a sister and daughter who, profoundly disabled, was never able to speak, nor was she capable of mobility without help.  Christine’s memoir, a truly innovative work in the literature of caregiving and family relationships, most of all captures the joyous spirit of Annie, who constantly in her limitations still communicated great warmth, laughter, and love to anyone around her. Christine Grote, also a contributing writer for RED!, is an original member of RED!’s staff, and for four years has assisted in the publication’s editing, design, promotion and marketing, and technical advancements.

RED! – After reading your book, it is obvious that Annie was a very big part of your families’ lives and that you all loved her dearly. At what point in your life did you really start to think that you would like to write about Annie’s life?  

Christine:  Not until I was an adult and had children of my own.

RED! – How did your family feel about you writing this story of Annie? Were they supportive?

Christine: Some of my family members were supportive and some were not. I think my mother supported me both as a writer and because I was recording a piece of our family’s history. I think she is happy to have and to be able to share Annie’s story.

RED! – I love the way the pictures in your book aid in telling Annie’s story. The front cover and the picture on the back cover really add to the story as well. Can you tell me about how you chose the pictures and cover that you chose?

Christine: I just tried to make the picture relate in some way to what I was writing about. Some of the pictures I moved around a few times. Originally I wanted to use more family group photos, but when two of my siblings were unwilling to sign release forms, I had to remove most of the group shots. My daughter designed the cover. It was her inspiration, and I loved it.

RED! – Do you feel that writing this book has helped you in a sense deal with Annie’s passing?

Christine: I think it has, in the sense that rubbing salt in a wound expedites the healing. It was painful to write, but it forced me to face a lot of things that were difficult.

RED! – Do you think that it has helped your family cope better with her passing? Have they read the book?

Christine: I think it is beginning to help my mother. She has read it three times now: twice in the original version that included all family members and once in the rewrite version. My sister Carol has read it. My father is unable.

RED! – I think this book will be very helpful to others who have or are currently going through similar circumstances in their lives. Is that something you had in mind when writing your book?

Christine: Absolutely. In fact, I sent one of my books to my friend Jim, who is in the book. He read it, and then gave it to a co-worker whose four-month-old child was just diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He told me he thought it would give her inspiration and strength.

RED! – What advice can you give aspiring writers who are thinking of writing a book, particularly a memoir?

Christine: I believe memoirs are very important because they record a piece of history, or what is happening in the here and now. They are also tricky. Memoir stories have to be told in the context the events were lived, which requires including other people. Some people, as I unfortunately learned first hand, do not want to be in a book. My advice would be this: if you are writing about someone else, check with them every step of the way, so you don’t end up with a complete story that you are unable to publish.

RED! – Thank you again, Christine; I hope your family is doing well.

Christine: Thank you.

You can contact Christine at:


Dancing in Heaven is available at: (print and Kindle)
(print and Nook)
(multiple ebooks)

To read excerpts from Dancing in Heaven and book reviews, please visit the Dancing in Heaven page on Christine’s blog.