"Death Row" Hershey, a Fort Myers' Cell Dog, Becomes a Celebrity

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Hershey and Jay Williams, a former inmate in the minimum-security section of the Community Programs Unit at Lee County Stockade Annex in Fort Myers, Florida, were an unlikely duo that love brought together. After Hershey was rescued from "death row" at an animal shelter and assigned to Williams, a volunteer inmate trainer, he and the dog formed a pact of mutual respect and companionship.

Lee County's Cell Dogs Program and Hershey, one of its first graduates, are celebrated in the new book "Angel Dogs: Divine Messengers of Love" by Allen and Linda Anderson (New World Library, October 2005). The Cell Dogs program was started by Captain Tom Weaver and is a partnership between Lee County Animal Services and Lee County Sheriff's Office. It has become a successful model that people from all over the country come to observe in hopes of starting similar prison programs. Williams' training of Hershey has now been told in local newspapers, the "Angel Dogs" book, in a "Publisher's Weekly" review, and by the Andersons on radio interviews around the nation. A foreword to "Angel Dogs" by "The Today Show's" resident dog-lover, Willard Scott sums up the theme of this story: "As diverse as each of us are, a love for dogs brings people together."

Hershey and Jay Williams, a former inmate in the minimum-security section of the Community Programs Unit at Lee County Stockade Annex in Fort Myers, Florida, were an unlikely duo that love brought together. After Hershey was rescued from "death row" at an animal shelter and assigned to Williams, a volunteer inmate trainer, he and the dog formed a pact of mutual respect and companionship.

In a post-script to Williams's happily ending story, Lehigh Acres residents, Frank and Leigh Ann Gibson wrote a chapter in the book about their experiences meeting Williams and adopting Hershey. They delighted at seeing the dog bond immediately with their children and other dog. Hershey had passed all the requirements to be an American Kennel Association Canine Good Citizen and now has become their valued family pet.

Allen Anderson says, "The most inspiring thing about Jay and Hershey's story is the remarkable growth that occurred in both the inmate and the dog. Hershey was an abandoned, abused, throwaway animal who learned to trust and love humans. Jay was a deaf prisoner who had never felt successful at anything. His experience participating in Captain Tom Weaver's outstanding program gave Jay confidence. Jay realized that he could turn his life around by using the skills of persistence and patience he had acquired while training Hershey. The journeys of both Jay and Hershey, as he and the Gibsons describe them, are unlike any other Cell Dog story we have ever heard."

Other stories in "Angel Dogs" illustrate why people and dogs are inseparable. The book features:

--From the afterlife, the dog Freckles who aids an officer assigned to guard Air Force One,

--Tequila, a matchmaker dog who brings two young people together and later, prevents their toddler from suffering a serious injury,

--Cpl. J.R., a retired marine officer's dog who discovers the neglected gravesite of a soldier with the dog's same name and offers a Veteran's Day reminder to never forget those who have given their lives for others,

--Zeke, a newly adopted dog, who saves the life of a newborn when the baby stops breathing,

--Haley, a therapy dog, who makes the difference for a teenager recovering from cancer,

--A musician who celebrates the late-in-life relationship between his father, a Tennessee college football coach, and his dog by writing a popular country song about them.

In 1996, Allen and Linda Anderson co-founded the Angel Animals Network and its free online "Angel Animals Story of the Week" at http://www.angelanimals.net. "Angel Dogs" is the latest in an ongoing series of books that contain inspiring stories about courageous and loyal animals. Story from the book was featured on The Montel Show. It is at bookstores nationwide and on the Internet and has a favorable review on "Publisher's Weekly" Website.

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Allen & Linda Anderson