Puppy sentenced to life of love

  • The N.H. State Prison as it looked a century ago. James Spain postcard collection

For the Monitor
Published: 7/8/2020 9:58:07 AM

There are times in life that an experience or brief encounter can change your course. You may be a serious person, a sad person or maybe even a career criminal. People might try to help you along the way while others simply do not want to be involved. There are feelings deep inside and opinions that will never be spoken. Sometimes the occasion arises to set all of this aside and simply enjoy the pleasure of the given moment. Even when that given moment might take place within the walls of the New Hampshire State Prison.

It was back in 1924 there was a national trend to rehabilitate people that fell on the wrong side of the law. Prior to this period in our history people that broke the law were assigned to hard labor for their penance and could only pay their debt to society by doing the time assigned within the penal system. Some people did well with this and were motivated with hard labor to never again break the law of the land. But there were prisoners that were professional criminals and found the only benefit from being behind a prison wall was to further sharpen their skills to become even more proficient criminals when they were eventually released from prison.

It is here in Concord we find the New Hampshire State Prison located. This institution was not the first prison in our little town. Prior to the construction of this facility the granite and brick walls of prison were located between Beacon and Tremont Streets in Concord. With the increase in the population of citizens in New Hampshire crime increased and there were more people breaking the laws in the state. A larger prison was constructed and by the time the year 1924 arrived the thoughts were centered on rehabilitation rather than hard labor. There were work programs established within the prison walls. During the summer months, each inmate was scheduled one hour of recreation in the prison yard. They could walk about, talk with each other and play baseball games. When the cool fall days once again returned, there was free time within the prison walls to play chess, checkers and cribbage. The prison also offered a woodworking program that allowed the prisoners to hone their skills and earn some extra money to be spent at the prison store or sent home to their families.

The period surrounding the year 1924 at the New Hampshire State Prison was certainly one of change and the warden welcomed new and unique ways to rehabilitate his prisoners. So, it was on a summer day in 1924 that another mode of motivation was first introduced to the prisoners housed at the New Hampshire State Prison.

On a hot summer day, just about this time of the year, as the prisoners were engaged in their activities about the prison yard a commotion was heard. There was a squeal from North State Street in front of the prison and both the guards and trusted prisoners soon found themselves gathering in front of the prison to see an unfortunate event unfold. There was a small mongrel dog limping badly on the road that was severely injured when struck by a passing automobile. Both the guards and inmates were touched by this small dog and coaxed it to the prison yard with promises of attention, treats and water. The poor pup was still young and certainly a mix of several breeds. The inmates set to work and summoned the prison doctor to examine the wounded dog in hopes of helping it to survive. After feeding the young dog, the prisoners provided a soft blanket and created a safe haven in the form of a wooden box within the walls. As each day came to pass the mongrel did indeed become well once again and developed a very kind liking to the prisoners that cared so deeply. It was said that there was much joy in the prison when the puppy started to walk the cell blocks, guard quarters and prison yard freely to interact with his new family. The young puppy was certainly free to leave since it recovered nicely, but the canine decided to stay with those that cared for him in his darkest hour of need following the accident.

Soon the conversation in the wardens office turned back to prisoner rehabilitation and the profound positive results garnered from the little prison puppy the convicts loved and cared for. There were some governors visiting the prison from others states and they all remarked about the brilliant rehabilitation tool the New Hampshire State Prison Warden had established with his canine program for the prisoners. The visiting governors returned to their own states and soon purchased young puppies to motivate their own incarcerated populations.

As the years progressed at the New Hampshire State Prison in Concord, the little mongrel lived a good life. The prisoners were said to have tears in their eyes as they embraced their little dog. The inmates stated that they would not trade their little mongrel for ten thoroughbreds. The love between man and his dog was certainly sincere here in Concord in the year 1924.

A dog does not judge nor show concern but only reacts to love shown to itself. It does not matter if you are rich or poor or a prisoner or free person. When the prisoners saved the life of this puppy, the bond was established.

So it is that in the summer of 1924 the prison puppy came to live with those incarcerated. The love shown by the prisoners resulted in a fine mature dog roaming the New Hampshire prison freely each and every day. The years passed and the fine dog chose to spend the rest of his life with those who cared. Certainly man’s best friend.


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