Prison ‘Soup’


Most dogs that do something ‘bad’ lower their heads and look ashamed. Not Michael and Leigh’s 3-year-old English Setter, Soup. He trudged off to jail for a rare prison break-in!

While quail-hunting in an Alabama pecan orchard, Soup raced into the woods after a deer’s scent.  When he did not return, his family posted his “lost” photo on Facebook.

“Five days into our search, Michael saw buzzards circling and felt that Soup was their dinner, until he found a deer’s carcass,” explained Leigh. “We had named the dog after my father, who inherited the nickname from his sister, Juleen, named after a popular 1940s soup. It was heart-wrenching believing we would never see [Soup] again.”

Then a phone call from the prison six miles away gave them hope. A guard who was looking for his lost dog on Facebook saw Michael’s post about Soup and recognized the picture as their new furry jailhouse “therapist.” A few days earlier, the facility’s maintenance supervisor had found a scared and hungry dog at 6 a.m. lying by a state vehicle. After he fed the dog a biscuit, it followed the staff everywhere.

Soup’s tags had fallen off, so they named him Buddy, and the head guard donated an old mattress for his bed in the maintenance office.

The guard also installed a dog door for their buddy to come and go as he wished. He became a pampered-prison pooch living large at Kilby Correctional Facility while Leigh and Michael were worried sick about him.

Inmates donated their dinners to their friendliest inmate. He feasted on roast beef, chicken tenders, steak and fruit cobblers. He played with them in their outside field, chased their basketballs and tussled with the security’s team of K-9 drug-sniffing dogs. While in their custody, the happy English Settler taught the staff that their inmates would benefit from a therapy dog after observing everyones’ healing reactions and interactions of joy.

Immediately after the prison guard’s phone call, Michael drove over to see if the dog was Soup or not. He pulled up in his truck and whistled hopefully.

Soup immediately trotted out from the maintenance shop and leapt into his arms before eagerly jumping in the front seat of the truck to go home.

Michael sat on the ground crying in relief.

“You absolutely knew that it was his dog,” said the guard. “The dog and I were inseparable for three days, and he wouldn’t come to me once Michael pulled up. Everyone could see ‘Buddy’ is well-loved and loves Michael.”

“I teach kindergarten and one of our parents is the prison’s K-9 Officer,” said Leigh. “He told me that his dogs had fun playing with their new friend and that ‘Buddy’ was living high on the hog. This explains why Soup was depressed after his return! He was missing all his cell mates’ attention and treats. His separation from his prison friends will be brief,” said Leigh. “We’re going for a visit with a pecan pie for the warden.”

Soup’s adventure was published in the Washington Post, was shown on Alabama news stations and, believe it or not, aired on a New Zealand TV station.

“People now recognize us as Soup’s parents, making us almost as famous as him,” laughs Leigh. “It is good to have him home. We missed his funny antics like going, ‘Woooo Wooo’ when he wants to play or announce that he is hungry. When he ‘talks’ he looks so funny because he sucks in his lips and looks like someone with no teeth. 

“He loves my homemade veggie soup, but luckily I won’t have to make it with hidden jailhouse keys to bust him out of prison.”

TIPS:

• Soup’s experience teaches us that even the ‘ruff-ruff’ moments of our lives can become rainbows for the future.  He had such an impact at that prison, including the guards, that  Leigh and her pastor are going to look into starting a prison dog program modeled after some she read about in earlier Tips ‘n’ Tales articles.

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