SUSANVILLE, CA - Watching Floyd and Dawn Tibbets walk their yellow lab Rocky, in the countryside near their home in Susanville, California, you'd little guess what this family has experienced together in the past year.
Rocky himself little resembles the frightened, abused dog that showed up one morning at the Lassen County Animal Shelter.
In fact it took several days for the staff to even coax him close enough to capture him. When they did they discovered a malnourished dog who had also been wounded with buckshot.
He was a long odds candidate for adoption, but the Humane Society took him to the California Correctional Center and put him in their Pups On Parole program which pairs homeless dogs with inmates who rehabilitate and socialize them.
It was literally his only chance. "He wouldn't have made it out of that shelter if it he hadn't been in that program," says the Humane Society's Mary Morphis.
Inmate Lance Schiller brought him back to health and gave him confidence. Then all he needed was a new home.
Dawn Tibbets works at the prison and heard there was a yellow lab up for adoption. Floyd had been looking for a yellow lab to accompany him on his frequent rock hunting trips.
Dawn thought Rocky might be the ideal companion for Floyd and decided to meet him.
"I looked at him and he looked at me and he just looked like he wanted to go home with me that day," remembers Dawn, "and I just couldn't leave him."
So Rocky came home. A month later he and Floyd were looking for petrified wood in a remote canyon.
Today Floyd has a pacemaker. Back then he was still suffering from a slow, irregular heart beat. Suddenly he collapsed falling into the brush and rocks.
"I looked like I had been in a cat fight," says Floyd. "Lost my glasses. Of course, I lost my hat, so I had no protection from the sun."
Bruised, cut and disoriented, Tibbets stumbled about, passing out repeatedly. Every time Floyd would pass out, Rocky would stay with him, licking his hand coaxing him back into consciousness.
"That would wake me up and if it didn't, he'd just lay down beside me."
They were not where they had told people they would be. Floyd had decided to check out another location.
As the day dragged on, concern grew and a frantic family was looking in the wrong spot.
Floyd and Rocky continued their erratic journey. Finally, gathering his senses, Floyd thought he knew the way back to their vehicle. Rocky knew otherwise and insisted Floyd follow him.
"The only time he wandered off was when I started going the wrong way. He started going the other way and finally I gave in to him."
So, Rocky guided Floyd back to their car. After a long day lost in the hot sun. the two managed to make it home.
The sad, frightened abused dog had proved himself a hero.
"I don't think we would have found him in time," says Dawn Tibbets. "I don't think he would have made it."
You believe Lucky saved Floyd's life?
The Pups on Parole program marks its fifth anniversary in June. So, far it has saved nearly 300 dogs.
Inmates and prison personnel alike say it's also helped those serving time better prepare themselves for re-entry into society.
Available dogs are listed on Petfinder.com.
For further information contact:
Lassen Humane Society, Inc.
P.O. Box 1575
Susanville, CA 96130
Phone: (530) 257-4555