First Impressions

You and the Correctional Center are more than an hour away.  My friend, Marianne, has kindly  agreed to accompany me. We begin our journey with a bag of Hershey Kisses on the console between us. The morning of the scheduled visit is dark and rainy. Fast, heavy, winter rain that bounces big drops on the windshield and pools on the roadsides. My wipers can barely keep up. The tires motor boat, the steering wheel pulls. I slow down. My mind races faster than the wipers swish to clear the windshield. What am I doing? Can I make you happy? Can I love another dog? Will you like me? I’ve seen your face. Read your bio. I doubt you even know that I am coming. Marianne’s kind words soften my anxiety. I persist through the rain, allowing conversation and chocolate to distract my thoughts.

The roads become more narrow and less inhabited as my excitement grows. At last, a sign, with words, softened by the rain, announces our location at the prison.  There are acres of fencing, topped with rolled barbed wire. Chain link. A strong fence that bends. Concrete towers form corners. There must be guards in there, but I can’t see them.  Lunenburg Correctional Center. A stark place. Big and foreboding. Especially in the rain.

We park in the guest space and run to the front door to avoid getting soaked.  We were advised we could not wear a jacket or jeans to the prison. No pants with metal, or jackets that could conceal. No purses. We were to leave them in the car. We were to deposit our driver’s licenses and keys at the front desk, along with the signed “rape/molestation prevention” document that we reviewed prior to our visit. We timidly pushed open the front door. There was a huge open room with institution green cinderblock walls. A worn rug was anchored with a couch and 2 chairs. The walls were covered with portraits of past and current governors. The current warden smiled from his portrait  as well.  To the left, looking down on us, was a glassed in room , that appeared to be  control central. There were several guards there and an abundance of computers and other electronics. In front of us was a desk. The guard behind the desk, smiled and motioned us forward. The sign on her desk read, Director of First Impressions.  I chuckled, welcoming the comic relief.

I turned over my license and signed “rape” form. I had to surrender my watch and take off my shoes. I was directed to walk through the metal detector. Something set it off. I jumped at the noise, certain the guard would think I was trying to smuggle something in my underwear. I stepped aside and was wanded. It was my underwire bra. I was ok. I breathed a sigh of relief and donned my shoes. I’m nervous about meeting you in your environment. But, I’m also excited. This is like CIA, FBI, spy stuff to me. I’ve never been in a prison. Unfortunately, Marianne didn’t make it through the metal detector. Her artificial knee kept her grounded. I would have to venture onward without her. Just me and the guard. Soon I would meet you face to fur.

It was still raining. There were several doors and gates to go through to get to you. I couldn’t keep count of the buzzes or clicks of doors as we moved from building to building. There wasn’t any activity going on outside that I could see. No dogs. No inmates. Only cold, hard rain. I was nervous. Not just about meeting you. But even encountering your inmate. Would he find me capable of handling a hound? Never mind him, will you like me Dwight?

At last we get to the building. There is another metal detector and another guard at the door. I am cleared to go in. It’s a large open room with a few metal folding chairs on the periphery.  There are 2 men in blue denim shirts wearing large black framed glasses. They tell me their names. I immediately forget them. I nod and offer my hand in greeting. Your trainer smiles and shakes my hand. I feel more at ease.

Then you make your grand entrance. You are so skinny. My first impression is ribs and legs. Dang you’re tall. You lope through the room, nose to the floor, ears cupped around your face. You are on a mission. Oblivious to us all. Then you pee and poop on the floor. Your trainer apologizes, saying, you don’t like the rain, as he cleans up the mess. I sit in a chair, speechless, watching the show.  One of the men brings you over to me. I try to look into your eyes. You avoid my gaze. I pet you. You pull away. Your trainer gives me pieces of hotdog. This gives you pause. You look at the hotdog and sit nicely, waiting for a treat. I look at the trainer and sigh, “I’ll take him.”


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