Bev and Amanda Ritenour lost their home, their possessions and Amanda's two dogs due to a house fire. During the fire, Amanda—who has cerebral palsy—tried to crawl back into her home to try and save her dogs. Unfortunately, with no homeowner's insurance, their losses could not be recovered.
Their neighbor, Lt. Jason Dongilli, works at SCI Fayette, and asked the employees of Fayette if they'd be willing to bring a small dog into the dog program to train it to be donated to Amanda. Fayette works with Humane Animal Rescue to support the institution's Developing Animals with Goals (D.A.W.G.) program. The shelter provides dogs to be trained in basic obedience by inmates to make them more adoptable. Trainers from the shelters visit weekly to assist inmates in training the dogs, who stay at the facility for at least six weeks. Since the start of the program in May 2017, there have been 44 successful adoptions.
Rolo, a 1-year-old poodle, was brought to Fayette by March 14. Rolo had his name changed to Fluffy quickly after his arrival upon a request from Amanda. Fluffy had been working with trainers for more than three months and knows how to sit, stay, leave it, up, roll over, lie down, wait at the door, drop things and loose-leash walk. He has almost been working with trainers to be good around wheelchairs and be able to jump into someone's lap if they tapped their chest.
Fayette staff was asked to provide donations to pay for Fluffy's $200 adoption fee. With the staff's generosity, a total of $625 was raised. This covered the adoption fee, and allowed staff to get Fluffy a grooming session, a bed, treats, bowls, grooming tools, toys, flea medication, wipes, shampoo, detangle spray, seat belt tether, a leash, name tag, storage containers and a $70 gift certificate for PetSmart. This gave the family the opportunity to get Fluffy with no out of pocket expenses. Superintendent Mark Capozza even personally donated a crate.
Fluffy was presented to his new owner on June 25. The family's new house, which the community helped raise the down payment money for, was also arriving that day. Dongilli brought Amanda to the SCI where Amanda was taken to the visiting room to find staff members and the inmate trainers were waiting. The two inmates who trained Fluffy made statements, and both agreed it was going to be difficult to let Fluffy go—but the thought of him going to a "furever" homemade letting go easier. Fluffy and Amanda already had a bond by the end of the morning.
Capozza said, "This family was devastated by a fire and we're honored that both staff and the inmate population at Fayette can assist in this same way to get them back to normalcy."