by The Editors
A decision to visit a dog who had been trained by a prison inmate not only brought her a new canine companion, but also a treasured new prayer partner.
Linda Rae, who has multiple sclerosis, had recently lost her beloved service dog, Sadie, who helped her with tasks she couldn't do herself. A friend suggested she look into a nearby program that teaches prison inmates to train companion dogs.
Linda Rae was skeptical. A companion dog, she knew, isn't the same as a service dog, but she agreed to look into it. On the program's website, she intrigued by a listing for a black Labrador retriever named Trixie who was described as "8 years old, obedient and sweet." Linda Rae's husband, Don, suggested they go meet Trixie.
Linda Rae and Don were immediately smitten with Trixie and were able to pick her up a few weeks later. Among the papers they received when they arrived at the prison was an anonmyous, handwritten diary by the inmate who had trained her. Linda Rae was touched by the gentleness and affection for Trixie that was apparent in the diary's entries and resolved to pray daily for the trainer from that point forward.
Some time later, Linda Rae and Don returned to the prison for a graduation ceremony for a prison ministry called Karios, which was created to develop Christian communities inside prisons; a select few inmates took part in weeklong training programs. Doame, a friend who was involved in the program, shared with Linda Rae and Don that Trixie's trainer, whose name was Jacob, was one of the participants in that day's ceremony.
After the ceremony, a Karios staff member brought Jacob over to meet Linda Rae and Don. All three parties were moved by the meeting and they bonded over their love for Trixie. "Working with dogs gives me the feeling that, even though I'm in prison, I can still do something worthwhile for other people," Jacob said.
Linda Rae and Don asked for, and were granted, permission to correspond with Jacob. He is not allowed to write back, but they have been faithful in writing to him.
As a trainer, Jacob has been "promoted" and now trains service dogs for children with autism; he also helps to lead a men's Bible study. Through Diane, Jacob communicated to Linda Rae and Don that he prays for them every day.
Linda Rae and Don end every letter to Jacob by quoting Philippians 1:6, reminding him that he is more than just a number and is beloved in the eyes of God: "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Theirs is a faith-filled friendship that began thanks to their mutual love of a dog.