Cera, by Mario Collier

I bet if I asked you what a retired greyhound was, the perplexed look would appear on your face. Well, retired greyhounds are actual racing dogs that were rescued from the track once they are no longer racing.
I was sent to this facility back in 2010, from a facility in Muskegon. You don’t get to select where you go, the MDOC does that. Anyway, I arrived here and laid my eyes on a greyhound for the first time, wow I said, these are some weird looking dogs. They are thin but muscular, no fat and really defined. I had never knew the breed existed except on the sides of buses. A couple years had passed and I wanted to try something different, so I applied for the greyhound program here at the prison. I was selected by the person who ran the program from inside the prison, Mrs. Houtz, after having a interview, and I have been training greyhounds ever since.
The directors of the program, Gayeanne and Ron Weaver, have been rescuing greyhounds long before the prison accepted the dogs, as a matter of fact, they were the first to put dogs inside Michigan’s prisons. The program was coined, The Greyhound Inmate Experience,{TGIE} and it has been just that! We receive the greyhounds via four adoption groups, Allies for Greyhounds, Greyhounds of Eastern Michigan, American Greyhounds, and Greyt Angels. These groups make all the logistical arrangements needed to have twenty greyhounds ready for the prison every ten weeks. There’s forty handlers that care for the dogs twenty four hours a day, and make sure they are trained to standard which is cataloged via a weekly report to be submitted to the directors. Ocassionally the directors will visit the prison to give us direction, encouragement, information, and to remind us that we are humans worthy of producing products that can add to society.
When entering the T.G.I.E., you think that you are here to help the dogs, you soon learn this couldn’t be further from the truth. The day finally approaches that you receive the dogs to begin the process. Everyone is excited anticipating the dog, and when they come you grab the leash and run the dog to the pen to relieve itself after a long ride from Alabama. The energy is still high, our next stop is the place where we thoroughly check the dog for injuries, fleas, tics, the tattoos in their ears, making sure they match the birth certificate, (bertillion card) and anything else to be discovered, and then it hits you. The condition some of the dogs come in will bring tears to your eyes. We weren’t prepared for this. It was in that moment, when I’m looking at this pretty brindle little girl, covered in tics with a horrible flea infestation, emaciated, scars and bruises, smelling like feces, it was then that I truly learned what empathy was. I had taken classes and read a plethora of books, but nothing taught me like the greyhounds. Since then, we’ve cared for over seven hundred greyhounds and counting. I’m a better man today because of these dogs. One of the things absent from doing time is being responsible for someone other than yourself. When a dog has a seizure and you care for it, or when they injure themselves and you nurse them back to health, when you teach them the obedience commands and these are dogs sometimes five years old, and when I tell you we bring them to life, we bring them to life! The most important thing is what they do for us. Prison will harden you and turn you into a machine with no feelings or care for the well being of another, it’s designed to dehumanize you, and it’s the one thing the MDOC does correct. The dogs snap you back though, there’s no time to be angry when the dog is licking your face, or taking your shoe and tossing it about. They greyhounds provide a reason to love again. It’s because of them that I respect others, refuse to inflict pain on others, cry when watching animal planet, and on top of all that, they have taught me a skill to support myself and further add to society. I owe these dogs so much, which brings me to the reason for this sharing, Cera. She was a graduate in the previous class, Beautiful white dog with brindle patches, and an amazing personality. She came to us from Greyt Angels, her temperament was low and she was a bit frightened. Me and my partner in the job went to work on her. We showed her love without ever acknowledging she was fearful. After about five weeks she was tearing up toys and running up and down the hallways. Cera learned so much and performed like the champ that she was. Cera became a balanced loving dog and warmed the hearts of everyone she encountered. Cera graduated and returned to Greyt Angels awaiting adoption. Our directors informed us this week my baby girl was diagnosed with cancer, and crossed the rainbow bridge to her forever home.
As I cry and write this for sharing, it’s to celebrate the life of my baby girl Cera, may she bark in peace. Thank you for listening,Mario

Reach me at:

Mario Collier #238834, or snail mail me @

Mario Collier #238834
141First Street
Cold water, MI 49036

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