FETCH Program at Dozier reaches across the country

Sept. 01--Behind the razor wire and security on Penn Avenue is a program that has brought the
community, students at the facility and rescued dogs together for more than 10 years.

The program has recently extended its reach across the country to a family in Oregon.

The FETCH program rescues dogs, trains them and rehabilitates them to be adopted out. FETCH is
located at the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, now called the North Florida Youth
Development Center.

Osa and Zack are 8-year-old Shiloh shepherds, a rare breed of dog developed in the 1960s. The dogs
were brought to the kennel at the facility about three months ago.

They were given up by their owner, Rae Dejur of Freeport, because she wasn't able to take care of them.

Dejur said it was "tremendously hard" to give up the dogs, but she had to do it.

"They're my fur kids," Dejur said.

She got the dogs when they were 14 months old. Osa and Zack are brother and sister from the same litter.
Shiloh shepherds are bred to be gentle and intelligent, Dejur said.

In fact, an intruder came into Dejur's back yard once and the two dogs ran silently up to the person and
snapped at his heels, but didn't touch him, she said.

A Shiloh shepherd rescue group in Pennsylvania found out about the dogs and put pictures of them on the
group's website.

A family in Oregon saw the pictures and "fell in love" with the dogs, according to FETCH instructor Harrison

The family coordinated with FETCH to adopt the dogs, and in a couple of weeks the dogs will make the
six-day trip to Oregon.

A company called Pets on Board Transport is going to drive the dogs to their new home. Pets on Board
and the Shiloh shepherd rescue in Pennsylvania have raised and donated money for the trip.

The Oregon family already has two Shiloh shepherds and will be a great home for the dogs, Slone said.

"This is as good as it gets," he added.

The kennel goes through many dogs. Most of them come from area shelters. The kennel gets an average
of four calls a day looking for a place to put a dog, Slone said. There are 15 cages at the kennel, all of
which are occupied right now.

Slone said the dogs get veterinary care at Marianna Animal Hospital and all of the dogs are in
"exceptionally good health."

The program started with adopting dogs out to the elderly and people with disabilities. But about three
years ago adoption extended to the students who work with the dogs and good homes in the community.

The students in the program were getting attached to the dogs after working with them, making the
separation difficult, Slone said.

Adopting the dogs has actually helped students transfer into life after the facility.

"If you've got something to take with you, it makes the transfer easier," Slone said.

Ben Pettis works in the kennel with the students. He said he can tell the difference when the students have
time with the dogs. It calms them down, he said.

"(The dog) is something that cares about them and just them," Pettis said.

All of the six students in the afternoon class have dogs picked out to adopt and take when they are

A number of the students in the morning class do too, Slone said.

Boys in the program train the dogs on how to be a companion or "a buddy," which means no aggression
and no jumping, Slone said.

Slone said the students who go through the program learn all of the skills to run a kennel. This includes
giving injections and first aid to the dogs.

"When they leave here they can run this place," he said.

Some of the boys have gotten jobs with the skills they learned through the program, including jobs at
PetSmart, kennels and as veterinary technicians. Some students call the kennel after they are released, to
see what's going on with the animals.

The dogs at the kennel are free to be adopted out to a good home. People just have to sign a contract
saying they will treat the dog well.

"We don't allow the dogs to be mistreated, at all," Slone said. "It they are, I'll go get them."

The FETCH program stands for Friends of the Elderly Training Companions for Homes. It was founded in
1998 by the late Judge Charles Miner of the Florida District Court of Appeals. It is a joint effort of the
Florida Department of Elder Affairs and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

Slone said there are several similar programs out there, but he doesn't know of a better one than FETCH.

"The kennel is the best kept secret in Marianna," he said.