When dogs evacuated, CMF staff opened homes to foster them
By Lt. Brady Olivas
and Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
When cases of COVID-19 started spiking at California Medical Facility (CMF), leaders made the painful decision to evacuate the dogs in the Paws For Life (PFL) program. The problem was finding people who could take them on such short notice. The staff at CMF stepped up to re-house the animals.
“Although the decision was tough, it was necessary to protect the incarcerated participants and fellow incarcerated population to minimize movement within the institution,” said acting Warden Daniel E. Cueva. “Soon after it was determined to evacuate the dogs, PFL and CMF formulated a plan and located foster homes for the rescued pups. All this was completed within hours, as all dogs were safely re-homed.”
Paws for Life started at CMF in 2019
Since PFL brought the first cohort of dogs to CMF in November 2019, staff and the population enthusiastically welcomed the program.
“You can sense a difference in the atmosphere when the dogs entered CMF. PFL has been great partners to CMF and the Vacaville community. As we get past this pandemic, we expect PFL to come back stronger and hope to rescue more dogs. I am proud that CMF is a part of an amazing program,” Warden Cueva said.
Jon Grobman, Director of PFL, thanked CMF staff for their rapid response to the evacuation.
“I was in Los Angeles when I got the disconcerting call to evacuate the dogs from CMF. Alex Tonner and I immediately prepared to travel back to Northern California,” he said. “In the meantime, Cheyenne Higgins, the Office Technician from the CRM’s office, acted expeditiously putting together a plan. She located multiple foster homes by contacting other staff members at CMF, while coordinating the moving and re-homing of the dogs. Cheyenne updated me on the evacuation progress, giving me peace of mind and allowing us time to complete PFL obligations in L.A.”
The staff’s generosity was notable, he said.
CMF staff acted quickly with open hearts
“CMF staff demonstrated an amazing act of compassion and generosity to open up their homes to the rescued dogs. In addition, the Paws For Life incarcerated program participants acted swiftly preparing the dogs for evacuation,” Grobman said.
Others also assisted, including Cherie and Mike Flores from Gold Country Pet Resort.
“They dropped everything and Mike drove from Ione, meeting Cheyenne at the institution and picking up the remaining five dogs,” Grobman said. “As an organization, we are thankful for the partnership with CMF. Several staff ended up adopting the dogs they were fostering, allowing these precious dogs to remain safe and in their new forever home.”
Due to their act of kindness, PFL waived all adoptions fees and donated food to the foster families.
CMF staff foster dogs
Some of the CMF employees fell in love with their foster dogs.
Toua Vang responded to the emergency by fostering Annika, but the family quickly found a connection.
“In the time of need, I initially chose to temporally foster Annika until she was adopted or allowed back into the institution for further training,” Vang said. “My family and I immediately fell in love with her. As she cautiously adjusted to the new surroundings and began interacting with the family, I knew she was a permanent addition. She has made us all happier and we feel more complete as a family.”
Cheyenne Higgins not only helped coordinate the evacuation, she also adopted one of the dogs.
“When I brought him home, Dude wasn’t sure of his surroundings or us, but in just a couple of days, I earned his trust and love. Dude gives kisses all the time, likes snuggles, lots of belly rubs, enjoys car rides and plays in the water,” Higgins said. “When Dude hears my voice in the morning, he comes running and is ready for some love and kisses. I am so happy to have Dude in my life.”
She said Grobman suggested that Higgins foster a dog.
“Thank you, Jon, for suggesting I foster Dude during the very stressful dog evacuation and thank you Paws for Life for allowing us to make Dude a part of our family,” she said.
Cornelius and Myles
Jessica Rice fostered Cornelius and Myles for a few days before others stepped up to help.
“These animals sense everything we feel. Providing them with love, comfort, and security for even just one night was not something I could turn away from,” said Rice. “We have all been given the ability to change someone or something’s life. We should never forget that.”
Cornelius found a temporary foster home with Marissa Vidales.
“It’s been a great experience and Cornelius is definitely ready for adoption,” she said. “He is a great dog and is so worthy of a loving forever home.”
Myles has temporarily moved to the home of Allen Bradley.
“Myles, now renamed King, is a great dog full of energy and happiness,” he said. “I get compliments on how handsome and muscular he is. King also loves car rides. It’s hard to keep him out of the passenger seat.”
Read more CDCR dog news.