Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Most of the shadows of life are caused by standing in our own sunshine.” Former Second Chance client, Bob Underwood, is familiar with the experience of standing in his own sunshine. Fortunately, he had the courage and strength to step out of his own sunshine and now brings light into the lives of everyone he meets.
When asked to describe what his life was like pre-incarceration, Bob replied with, “Very depressing.” He found himself using unhealthy coping mechanisms and ended up making decisions that led to him spending a few years in prison. He recognized early on that he would need change his ways in order to get his life on a better track and, luckily, he didn’t have to make this change on his own; he had a little help from some adorable friends.
Bob got involved with a program called “Puppies for Parole,” in which selected inmates in Missouri prisons can train and care for rescue dogs to prepare them for their forever homes. This program reduces the number of dogs in shelters and allowed Bob to give back to the community, but most importantly, the dogs that Bob trained provided him with immeasurable emotional support and a real purpose to his life in prison.
Many people can relate to the feeling of love and support that dogs provide, but Bob found himself especially needing this support when he lost two close family members while he was incarcerated. When he got the news that his mother passed, the dog he was training at the time, Sunny, rested his head on Bob’s lap; and when he lost his brother, even the rowdy dog he was training at the time, Polo, could sense that something was wrong and gave Bob the extra love and support he so desperately needed. As Bob described it, “Those dogs just knew.”
Bob trained 16 dogs in the “Puppies for Parole” program and still gets emotional when he remembers the way those dogs looked back at him as they were walking out for the last time, almost as if they were thanking him for helping them find their forever homes.
When his incarceration was nearing its end, he attended a presentation by one of Second Chance’s Resource Specialists; Bob was inspired to get involved with Second Chance after this presentation and knew that it would help him land on his feet.
Upon his release, Bob started meeting with the same Resource Specialist who gave the presentation in his facility. He recalled that the biggest barrier when reentering society was himself; Bob feared how people were going to accept him and was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to find employment. His resource specialist continuously encouraged him and reminded him that everything will always be okay in the end. Second Chance provided him with work clothes, work boots, other necessities, and, most importantly, made him feel like a human.
Today, Bob continues to live out his passion and works with dogs for his career. Though life can still get tough, he has a great support system, healthy coping strategies, and lots of dogs to get him through the hard times. Bob’s advice for those in a similar position to him is: “Keep your head up, stay positive, have faith, and remember that nobody is against you but yourself. People are willing to help you if you’re ready to help yourself.”