Skip to main content

Putting Puppies Behind Bars (For A Good Cause)

Puppies Behind Bars is a canine training program that enlists prison inmates to train puppies as bomb-sniffing dogs or as service animals. Many of the dogs are then paired with wounded or disabled veterans.


Other segments from the episode on August 12, 2009

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, August 12, 2009: Interview with Gloria Gilbert Stoga and Nora Moran; Review of Thomas Pynchon's new novel "Inherent vice."


Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Putting Puppies Behind Bars? (No, It's A Good Thing!)


This is FRESH AIR. I’m Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, sitting in for Terry Gross.

For years, dogs have been trained to guide the visually impaired, search for
missing people and sniff for bombs and drugs, but pups are now being taught to
help people who have psychiatric problems, including post-traumatic stress

Today we’ll meet an Iraq War vet who relies on his service dog in ways that
will surprise you. But there’s another part of the story. His black lab, and
nearly 500 other service dogs, have been trained by prison inmates through a
program called Puppies Behind Bars.

Under the program, inmates who apply and are accepted are matched with a pup
who lives with him in prison and learns dozens of commands necessary for
physical or psychiatric assistance or bomb-sniffing.

Our guests are Gloria Gilbert Stoga, who started Puppies Behind Bars in 1997;
Nora Moran, a former inmate who trained dogs and now works for the programs;
and Paul Bang-Knudsen, a retired marine corporal who was wounded in Iraq.

Gloria Gilbert Stoga, Nora Moran and Paul Bang-Knudsen, welcome all of you to
FRESH AIR. Gloria, let me turn to you first. The inmate gets the puppy at eight
weeks old. Is that right?

Ms. GLORIA GILBERT STOGA (Founder, Puppies Behind Bars): Yes.

DAVIES: And then just tell us a little bit about kind of how long they’re
there, what the routine is, what kind of training they do.

Ms. STOGA: We raise two kinds of dogs in prison. One are bomb-sniffing dogs,
explosive detection canines, which we started after the terrorist attacks of
September 11; and the other service dogs for wounded veterans, such as Paul.

If it’s a bomb-sniffing dog, it stays with us for about a year. If it’s a
service dog, it stays with us for about a year and a half or two years. In both
cases, even though the training is wildly different, the bonding, the love, the
nurturing, the constant care and the full responsibility for a live being is
the same, regardless of type of training the dog’s undergoing and regardless of
whether it’s a male or a female inmate who is the puppy-raiser - as we call

DAVIES: The dogs, do they live with the inmate 24/7 in their cell?

Ms. STOGA: Yes, yes. They live in the cells with the inmates 24/7. There’s a
kennel that’s set up in every cell. We have an extensive volunteer network of
400 volunteers who agree to take the puppies out of prison, either for a couple
of hours or for a weekend, so that the dogs can get exposed to the real world.

If the dogs only grew up in prison, they would be extremely well-behaved,
they’d be very well-loved, but they would become concerned when a bus went by
or when a kid came by, you know, on a skateboard or something like that.

So we have an extensive volunteer network that does take the dogs out of
prison, and every single weekend, we run two puppy shuttles into Manhattan,
where the dogs spend a weekend getting used to the urban chaos of New York. So
we have an extensive volunteer network that does take the dogs out of prison,
and every single weekend, we run two puppy shuttles into Manhattan, where the
dogs spend a weekend getting used to the urban chaos of New York.

DAVIES: Okay, so they get their training in prison, but they get acclimated to
civilian life on the weekends.

Ms. STOGA: Yes.

DAVIES: Now, tell us about the training that the inmates actually perform. How
many hours a week, how difficult is it? What do the dogs learn?

Ms. STOGA: For the explosive detection canines, we teach them a couple of
things. We teach them to use their noses rather than their eyes to find a
hidden object. We teach them to go into a room and do a search pattern so that
they’re literally sniffing every single surface in the room, and we teach them
to be well-behaved.

For the service dogs, we teach them 85 different commands - five of which we
made up, and Paul actually gave us one to make up - that our soldiers and
Marines have told us would be useful in their lives with our dogs.

That includes everything from picking up an object, opening a door, holding the
door open, getting a water bottle out of the refrigerator, turning on and off

The specialized commands, which Paul may well address, are specifically for
wounded warriors with PTSD and/or traumatic brain injury.

DAVIES: That sounds like dozens of commands to learn.

Ms. STOGA: It’s dozens of commands. To answer your question, how long are the
dogs trained, they’re trained throughout the day in small segments that A, it’s
easier for the dog to learn; and B, it’s more humane.

So when the inmate is – the dogs go everywhere with the inmate. So if the
inmate is in a class, if the inmate is in a vocational program, if the inmate’s
going on a visit with his family, the dog goes with the inmate. So basic
commands like sit, down, stay are reinforced throughout the day. It’s not a
training period, per se.

The specialized commands, yes, the inmates may train for 20 minutes here, 10
minutes there. It depends on how quickly the dog learns.

DAVIES: You know, dogs do have personalities. Do you - can you tell, Gloria,
when one won’t work, or are there some kinds of personalities that would work
better, for example, for bomb sniffing as opposed to other service?

Ms. STOGA: Well, the funny thing is, Samba started out as a bomb sniffer. I
mean, Paul can talk about that, but – and you know what? She would have made a
great bomb sniffer, but she had such a wonderful, outgoing but mellow
personality that when she was about, I don’t remember, maybe around five months
old, I said look, you know, she could be a great bomb sniffer, but I think she
could really work with a wounded soldier.

So we switched her. She was originally raised in a men’s prison, and that’s
when we switched her to the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. So yes, dogs
absolutely have different personalities, and dogs have different penchant for
training. And we just switched some puppies that we thought were going to be
service dogs, we tried them out for a couple of months, and they just, they
didn’t like the training. They just weren’t focusing on the commands. So we
just moved them over to be bomb sniffers, where it’s going to, we think, better
match with their personalities.

DAVIES: So the kind of personality that works better as a bomb sniffer is one,
what, can handle a little less complexity, maybe?

Ms. STOGA: I actually liken it to the bomb-sniffing dog is the dog who is going
to be more out front, who’s going to make decisions. The service dog is the dog
that’s going to constantly look up at the owner and the handler and say what do
you want me to do now? Do you want me to open the door? Do you want me to do
got my back? Do you want me to turn on that light?

So the bomb sniffer is kind of more in your face, if you will, and the service
dog is more, okay, tell me what’s next, and I’ll do it.

DAVIES: Do you think that there is something about the life of a prison inmate
that makes them particularly well-suited for this kind of work? Obviously,
they’re available, but is there anything about their experience that you think
makes this work?

Ms. STOGA: I think the emotion fragility of inmates makes it work. Those us who
have dogs, know dogs, or any animal for that matter, know that dogs love
unconditionally; know that dogs have this extraordinary ability to heal. And I
have heard time and time again from inmates, saying that they will tell their
dog things that they’ve never told anybody else.

Their dog doesn’t care what their crime was. Their dog doesn’t care what their
social status in life is. All the dog cares about is that this person loves me,
this person takes care of me, this person feeds me, and in return, I give
kisses and love 24 hours a day.

So I think that the emotional fragility of inmates, yes, makes them good
trainers. I also think that for the right inmate, the ability to contribute to
society, while incarcerated, is unique. And we look for men and women who say
okay, I committed a horrendous crime. I want to do something positive, and I
want to do something positive, not just for myself but, much more importantly,
I want to do something positive for others. That combination, I think, makes
inmates extraordinary dog trainers.

DAVIES: You know, I hear some real emotion in your voice as you describe that.
These relationships must be really powerful for you to witness and experience.

Ms. STOGA: They are. When we get started talking with Paul, you’re going to
hear more emotion because working with our wounded warriors is just so deeply
gratifying. It is. We see transformations constantly. We see inmates who were
withdrawn. I mean, there are so parallels - and Paul may address this later -
there are a lot of parallels between the wounded warriors who are prisoners in
their own homes and the inmates who are prisoners in prison. But the inmates
who are withdrawn, who are perhaps shell-shocked for lack of a better word, the
dog brings them out; The team, because it’s team effort to raise a dog, brings

them out. People really blossom. So I see that month after month, year after
year, and yes, it’s something that’s very gratifying to me.

DAVIES: I want to turn to you, Nora Moran. You’re a former inmate. You’re now a
staff member for Puppies Behind Bars. First just tell us a little bit about
what landed you in jail and how long you were there before you became connected
with the program.

Ms. NORA MORAN (Staff Member, Puppies Behind Bars): Well, I became incarcerated
at age 17 for armed robbery. I was a really angry, lost, confused, young
adolescent girl, and I used that anger to lash out at innocent people.

So when I became incarcerated, I needed to understand that I didn’t want to be
a person who created damage in the world. I wanted to be a person who was a
vehicle for healing and growth.

So two years after I became incarcerated, I joined Puppies Behind Bars and
started realizing that dream of being able to be a vehicle for healing and

DAVIES: Tell us about your first puppy.

Ms. MORAN: My first puppy, his name was Mr. Bill. He was a black lab. He was
actually started by another raiser who was then transferred to another
facility. And after two months of being in the program, Gloria decided that I
had worked so hard and become so skilled that she’d give me a chance to raise a

So Bill was four months old when I became his primary raiser, and once he
learned how to walk, he was absolutely one of the easiest dogs I’ve trained
yet. He was a great dog.

DAVIES: Was learning to walk an issue for Mr. Bill?

Ms. MORAN: Learning to walk, yes. He did not want to leave the housing unit. He
was used to being carried and kind of pampered. So asking him to leave his
comfort zones was a bit of a challenge, but once he got that going, he was easy
to go from there.

DAVIES: He didn’t know he was in for the life of a working dog yet, huh?

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: You know, having a dog with you all the time, sleeping in your cell,
must have set you apart from other inmates. How do you think it changed the way
you were perceived and treated by others in the prison?

Ms. MORAN: Well, it definitely made me become a role model to my peers. In
order to be a part of Puppies Behind Bars, as an inmate, you really have to
understand that it’s about a lot of sacrifice.

There are a number of programs, specifically in Bedford Hills Correctional
Facilities, that any inmate can choose to participate in, but to be a puppy
raiser means that you have to put the puppies absolutely first and foremost in
your life, and that means you can’t participate in some of the other things
that other inmates would participate in - like recreational activities,
educational activities.

DAVIES: Why would having the dog prevent you from engaging in recreational and
educational activities in the prison?

Ms. MORAN: Because working with a dog is a 24/7 commitment. And that commitment
to take care of the dog’s grooming needs, exercise needs and training needs
takes over a huge portion of your day.

We say that the puppy’s learning something every moment it’s awake. And as you
know, little puppies, they’re full of life and energy and want to explore, and
some of them don’t sleep very much. So it’s a huge responsibility, and some
people can’t juggle both.

DAVIES: This may be a silly practical question, but you know, if a puppy wants
to start yapping and you’re, you know, in a cell block full of a lot of other
inmates that might not appreciate it, is that an issue?

Ms. MORAN: Well, luckily, the puppy program exists on units where everybody
living in those units understands that certain things are going to happen on
those units that don’t exist in the rest of population. So, we do set it up
where people are more tolerant of that, but we also teach the puppies of eight
weeks of age on not to bark. Of course, they do on occasion, especially when
they first arrive, but that doesn’t last very long.

DAVIES: You know, if you’re really with the animal 24/7, for a year or a year
and a half, it must be awfully hard to say goodbye.

Ms. MORAN: It is awfully hard, but it’s kind of like sending them off to puppy
college. We understand that the year or year and a couple months that we spend
pouring our love and pouring our commitment into that dog, that dog is going to
go off and share that same love with a veteran returning from war, and it gives
that love to society before we get there. So it’s an incredibly – it fills us
with pride, as well as tinged in a little bit of sadness.

DAVIES: That was Nora Moran. She works with the program, Puppies Behind Bars.
Also with us, the program’s founder, Gloria Gilbert Stoga, and Paul Bang-
Knudsen, who has a dog from the program, and he was wounded in Iraq. We’ll talk
more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: If you’re just joining us, we’re talking about the program Puppies
Behind Bars, in which prison inmates train animals to assist wounded veterans
to become bomb-sniffing dogs and perform other tasks.

With us are the program’s founder, Gloria Gilbert Stoga; Nora Moran, she is
also an administrator of the program and was an inmate who trained dogs at one
point; and also with us is Paul Bang-Knudsen. He is an injured veteran who has
a dog now.

Well, Paul Bang-Knudsen, let’s talk about your story. I mean, first of all, you
were a corporal in the Marine Corps in Iraq, right?

Corporal PAUL BANG-KNUDSEN (Veteran, U.S. Marine Corps): That’s right.

DAVIES: Tell us how you were injured.

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: We were in a Special Forces unit, a Marine force recon,
reconnaissance duty, and we drove into an area near Syria and engaged in a –
got ambushed, simply. And I suffered gunshot wounds - to the leg and some
concussive IEDs and RPGs. So pretty much, they threw the book at us, and that
pretty much, you know, changed sort of the landscape of my own life.

DAVIES: I’m sure, yeah.

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: I was removed from the battlefield in expedited fashion and
back to California, eventually, for about a year. And now I’m – you know, this
is about three years later, I’m here in Seattle, Washington. And, you know, I
had some problems with isolation and starting to - sort of the PTSD signature
is sort of experiencing things out in the civilian population that startle you
and, you know, people term them as flashbacks or sort of re-experiencing based
on stress.

So that can happen in a supermarket or wherever, and it’s not really a socially
acceptable behavior. So what tends to happen is sort of an isolation process,
and as I was becoming isolated, I was understanding that something was going
wrong and I, you know, kind of knew that this was an issue, you know. So the VA
is making all kind of efforts to mitigate this disability and return to a
healthy lifestyle. So that’s how I found out about this program, Puppies Behind

DAVIES: If I can just ask, do you have physical impairments in addition to the
post-traumatic stress disorder?

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: Yes, I do. I got shot in the leg and I lost a lot of muscle
and there’s nerve damage there. So, you know, I walk with a minor limp, I
suppose, but other than that, it’s pretty – it’s very much an invisible injury
in that, like, you know, I can walk around and people don’t necessarily guess
what’s wrong.

DAVIES: Well, tell us about getting Samba, your dog. Well, describe her for us,
if you will.

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: Samba’s a black lab, and most people that come up ask or
say, is she English? And she’s a smaller variety and, you know, she’s an
incredibly adorable dog. And it’s something that, you know, she almost creates
a crowd, or people do notice this dog. She is a black-coated dog that, you
know, with a very shiny coat.

DAVIES: And there in the studio with you, right?

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: And she is on the floor of the studio today. She wears her
service cape. I always wear this – or she has this service cape that identifies
her as a Puppies Behind Bars service dog for veterans of the Dog Tags program.
And there’s a, you know, do not distract patch on there.

We just got cards from the Puppies Behind Bars program, you know, that we’re
able to give out now. And they say: I’m a veteran who fought in Iraq or
Afghanistan and have post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.
My service dog assists me through my daily routines. Please do not pet her, as
it distracts her from doing her job.

So you know, it’s – I live in a community that’s fairly knowledgeable of

service dogs. So I don’t have a lot of problems. It’s - when I, you know, go
out into, I guess, tourist areas or, you know, I went to the Museum of Flight,
Washington, D.C., at the Smithsonian, and it was a different story than my
regular routine.

It was a bit of a spectacle because it’s such a cute dog, but it’s one of the
things that she really is doing a job for me, so…

DAVIES: Paul Bang-Knudsen was a corporal in the Marine Corps when she was
wounded in Iraq. Gloria Gilbert Stoga founded the program Puppies Behind Bars,
and Nora Moran is a former inmate who now works in the program. They’ll be back
in the second half of the show. I’m Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Dave Davies filling in for Terry Gross.

We're talking about an innovative program called Puppies Behind Bars in which
pups are sent to live in prison with an inmate, who trains the dog to either
sniff for bombs or assist someone with a physical or psychiatric condition,
like posttraumatic stress disorder. Our guests are Gloria Gilbert Stoga, who
founded the program, Nora Moran, a former inmate who trained dogs and now works
with the program, and Paul Bang-Knudsen, an Iraq war vet who suffers from
posttraumatic stress disorder and has a service dog named Samba.

Could you describe some of the difficulties that you were having and how Samba
helps day to day?

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: Sure. Samba has been trained specifically to mitigate the -
my startle response. For example, any supermarket I remind - I think about like
a Costco or something, you know, maybe a larger store with big aisles and
walking around those corners is a stressor for me. And when - I think
everybody's run into someone like coming around and meeting at the
intersections of the aisles if, you know, you’re coming around the corner, a
blind corner in a supermarket. And while the normal reaction is, you know,
excuse me, or you can laugh it off, the startle response for someone with PTSD,
who already has their hypervigilance up, is something that it increases and can
lead to sort of flashbacks of memories of war and being, you know, in a
survival instinct, fight or flight situation.

So one of the commands that Gloria was speaking of earlier is we have Samba pop
the corner, and what she does is she walks slightly ahead of me and simply
looks around corners and identifies whether or not there's people there to me
by stopping and looking at me. And we have what's called synchrony and Samba
and I have been paired long enough that we are working together and are on the
same schedule.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: So that's one specific task or a skill trained to mitigate
my disability. She also does things like standing in line, she knows to watch
my back and that is the same sort of thing. If anyone basically - it's not like
an aggressive dog in any way, but she will notify me if someone is coming to

tap me on the shoulder or startle me in any other way I guess. So she performs
a block...

DAVIES: And how does she notify you? Yeah. How does she notify you?

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: She performs a block and, I guess, reaches out to greet that
person, so she removes herself from a sit to greet the person. And she also
does a block which would create basically a body bubble of space between the
person and myself.

DAVIES: Gloria Gilbert Stoga, you run this program. These are really
fascinating things to hear.

Ms. STOGA: And I'd like to follow-up on something Paul just said. We at this
point have paired 15 veterans with our dogs and I feel that we learn from each
and every one. We learn from the mistakes we make, but we also learn from the
vets what they need. And it was actually Paul who taught us pop-the-corner. It
was in training and you were going into a room I believe, Paul, and Samba went
ahead of you and she looked to the left and she looked to your right and you
said she just popped a corner. And we said what in heaven's name is that? And
you said dog looked left, dog looked right. I know it's safe to enter that
room. As a result, a hundred percent of our dogs since Samba are now taught
that command. So it’s really cool that the veterans help us understand what
they need in their service dog.

DAVIES: Yeah. Let me ask either of you: in what are some other specific ways
that dogs are trained to help vets with posttraumatic stress?

Ms. STOGA: Another one of our veterans whose flashbacks are physically
debilitating - and he ends up oftentimes on the floor in the fetal position.
His wife went shopping one day, left Alan home with the dog, came back from the
supermarket and Frankie, the dog was standing at the front door. And Gina, the
wife thought that's weird. Why isn't Frankie with Alan? Oh well, went back to
the car, got more of the groceries. Frankie, the dog was still at the front
door. At that point Gina said, oh my God, there's something wrong and she went
running down the hallway. And there is Alan on the floor in a fetal position
completely unresponsive. When we heard that, we said we’ve got to do something
if the dog and the soldier are alone and there's no human there. So since then
we’ve taught all of our dogs to literally dial 9-1-1 on a phone.

Not only on the command help, but if all of a sudden I were to stop talking or
if I were to fall out of my chair, the dog would be cued to dial 9-1-1. So
that's another example of a real life situation: Veteran gets home with one of
our dogs and says, hey, I could use this in my real life because it happens to

DAVIES: How does the dog know to dial 9-1-1?

Ms. STOGA: I'll tell you the secret.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. STOGA: It's a large phone. Generally, it's a phone for the visually
impaired. And it's a wall phone and each of the numbers are preprogrammed 9-1-
1. So we - every single command we teach we break down into basics. So first we
taught the dog to go to the phone, literally with its mouth, take the receiver
off, and then with its nose press anyone of those buttons, each of which will

And one of the inmates actually rigged up that once the button's pressed a
light goes on so both the dog, I guess, probably more the humans can see hey,
dog made enough contact. And then the dog goes right back to the soldier or the
inmate who's pretending to be a soldier on the floor. And we'll repeat that if,
indeed, help doesn't come. But that's how we taught it: get the phone, take the
receiver, push with your nose, and any one of these buttons will do it.

DAVIES: And are they suppose to bark once, you know the emergency personnel
come on the line?

Ms. STOGA: Good question. We don't teach them that. One of the other things
we’ve learned - and Paul, this maybe different for you and I'd actually be
interested - is at least in some of the small towns in which our veterans live
the local emergency and police know that there's a veteran at that house with
posttraumatic stress disorder and/or traumatic brain injury, so if there were a
9-1-1 call from the house, immediately the medical or law, you know, would go
to the house because they're already preprogrammed, that someone lives there
who could need help.

Paul, I don't know if that exists for you or not that your local EMS or
whomever knows that you might need help?

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: They have a list I guess. But it's any time 9-1-1 is called
in our area it's dispatched, so no one has to say anything necessarily.

DAVIES: Right. Big cities have computer-aided dispatch in which the...

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: Exactly.

DAVIES: ...the address of the number pops right up for the operator. Is there
another example of - like that, of how she helps?

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: The main thing is that she will - my command is find the
car. For example, in these supermarket situations, so evacuating a mall...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: it sounds light but getting out of the stressful
situation is a big piece. And she will lead the charge back to the car. And
using her nose, she is very adept at finding my car or going back to the car
even we rode in, so if I’m in a carpool or anything like that.

DAVIES: How long have you had Samba, Paul?

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: I've had Samba I believe somewhere in the sixth month. Is it
six months I think?

Ms. STOGA: Yeah, February of this year.

DAVIES: And have you noticed any sustained difference in your mood or reactions
since she's been with you?

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: The answer is yes. I've had a lot better time engaging
normal or happy civilian life since I've had Samba. And there's other pieces to
the dog ownership that may - some are trained commands and some are the - just
the value of dog ownership. You know, they have a great internal clock, and
setting a routine for myself with traumatic brain injury, that's an important
piece. It's a, you know, working on time management, if she needs to eat at a
specific time every day - and she certainly knows when that is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: Other events can revolve around that and do. So she also
needs to get out and exercise and the isolation piece I think is really one of
the biggest problems of kind of going down the wrong road. Continuing to
isolate yourself as a PTSD veteran is really I guess the sickness or the
problem, and getting out - and this is something that is, you know, Samba is a
social ambassador and is able to take the focus or attention off of me or the
veteran in public.

And it also takes my attention off of the hypervigilance. So instead of looking
at the mall as a series of sniper locations and, you know, possible IED bags
or, you know, debris cans or, you know, looking at the normal civilian
environment as a hostile threat, I’m actually focused on the reinforcement of
the training and the dog, not only with you know my eyes and watching her, that
she's performing these commands properly, but, you know, mentally we're
synchronized in getting from point A to point B without, I guess, diverging
into the, you know, perceived threat.

DAVIES: Paul Bang-Knudsen is a former Marine Corporal who was wounded in Iraq.
Gloria Gilbert Stoga founded the program Puppies Behind Bars. And Nora Moran
works in the program. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: We're speaking with Gloria Gilbert Stoga who founded the program
Puppies Behind Bars, Nora Moran, a former inmate who now works with the
program, and Paul Bang-Knudsen, an Iraq war vet who has a service dog named
Samba who was trained in prison.

Paul, do you know where Samba was trained or any of the inmates that were
involved in her training?

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: I do. You know Puppies Behind Bars has a program where they
- the inmates do a wonderful job of documenting. And they’ve got notebooks
which was, I guess, awarded to me once we graduated or they were given to me by
Gloria and it’s an amazing story. It has every day, you know, every portion of
the day documented as to how Samba was acting and what she was doing and if she
was in a good mood or in a bad mood.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: And even the folks that volunteered to take her out on the
weekends write reports to the inmate trainers and that's included in the books,
and there's a few snapshots in there. And it's a wonderful story. And I have
referenced that time and time again, because I've learned that these inmate
trainers are absolute masters and know this system and how they - you know,
it's funny.

You know, if Samba used to get skitterish(ph) on the public transit, on the bus
- because there was a, you know, an alarm that went off when it lowered and,
you know, in combination with the air brakes and, you know, she got skittish.
And it was funny because I went back to that book and - with two of the inmates
- and they had experienced her digging her heels in before. And simply using
that advice of, you know, staying consistent and, you know, not over-babying
her necessarily - but it was good reference.

DAVIES: Nora Moran, I wonder when you were incarcerated and training puppies,
did you have occasion where you met, you know, people like Paul, whose lives
had been changed by some of the animals that you had helped to train?

Ms. MORAN: Yeah. I was lucky enough to be in Puppies Behind Bars at a time
where we had a number of the companions who’ve received our dogs have come back
and thanked the group of puppy raisers who were participating in the program at
that time. Out of five dogs that I’ve raised, four of them became working dogs.
None of the people who received my dogs came back, but several of the people
when we were working with Guiding Eyes for the Blind came back to thank our
class, and even our first dog tags graduate, Bill Campbell, came back to thank
our class while I was in the program. And it was just a remarkable experience
to know that how many lives that we’ve touched based on the work and love that
we’ve put into raising these dogs.

DAVIES: You know…

Ms. MORAN: And not only do the soldiers’ lives get touched or the companions’
lives get touched, but every life that soldier comes in contact with as well.

DAVIES: Yeah, their families and loved ones as well, you know…

Ms. MORAN: Mm-hmm, definitely.

DAVIES: You know, Gloria Gilbert Stoga, I mean this is interesting because
you’ve got, you know, inmates - although I mean they obviously caused harm in
someone else - to someone else to be where they are, are people who are often,
you know, harmed and damaged themselves. And you have this other group of
people, in the case of vets, who are - you know, who suffered, you know,
terrible injuries. And they’re doing something which helps each other. Is it
important for you to kind of have both sides see the emotional connection

Ms. STOGA: Yes. I’m extraordinarily lucky that 12 years later Puppies Behind
Bars is still as relevant and rewarding to me personally as it was in 1997. As
Nora just said, we’ve had recipients of our dogs. Guide dog users, Bill
Campbell, our first dog tag set, and law enforcement agents come in and thank
the puppy raisers. We had a group of our soldiers, our dog tag soldiers, come
in to a men’s prison last fall, and I have never ever seen the kind of
immediate bond I saw between those wounded soldiers and our inmates.

And I was sobbing, the men were sobbing. Sobbing in front of a woman and
sobbing in front of corrections officers, doesn’t happen that often in a men’s
prison. But there they just spoke the same language. They were on the same
level that this dog - these dogs had helped them both get out of their
emotional shells, and as Paul just said, get out of that isolation. And that is
something that I’ll remember forever and so will the inmates. It was just, you
couldn’t have staged it.

DAVIES: You know, I guess you don’t pay inmates to do this. But this is a
fairly expensive undertaking, isn’t it, Gloria?

Ms. STOGA: It is. It costs us $26,000 per dog per wounded warrior. By the time
Paul and Samba flew home together, Puppies Behind Bars had put that amount of
money into the dog, and then of course you can’t quantify the love.

DAVIES: Talk a little bit about where you get the animals. If I read you, you
get some from - mostly from breeders. You get not so many from shelters. Is
their a reason for that?

Ms. MORAN: Yeah, we have gotten five rescue labs in the past. They were

wonderful dogs, all of them. It was probably just bad luck of the draw. All of
them ended up having serious medical conditions that weren’t apparent when they
were younger. And so not only did we put all of the time and love into the
dogs, but then we were in the position of having to find homes for doggies that
had, you know, for example, elbow dysplasia. So not only did it prevent us from
having a dog to graduate, it also took us away from our main mission. So we
really, primarily, only use dogs from breeders.

DAVIES: Well, before I let you all go, I wanted give an opportunity to say
anything else that you wanted, that we might not have covered.

Ms. STOGA: I just want to say, and I hope I don’t tear up, meeting Paul and
meeting the other veterans has just been so deeply rewarding. Puppies Behind
Bars started dog tags when I, just as a private citizen, would read the paper
every day and just hear about the number of our men and women who were getting
wounded. And I said, what can I do? I’m sitting here in my comfort of New York
and they’re in Iraq and Afghanistan, what can I do?

And the answer was, I can do dogs. And that was the genesis of dog tags and I
just - every single day I just feel so lucky that we have men and women who are
fighting for our country. And I think I speak for Nora when I say that meeting
Paul has really - it’s broadened our horizons and it’s really taught us a lot,
not only about service dogs, but more importantly about the human spirit.

DAVIES: Well, Gloria Gilbert Stoga, thanks so much for sharing the program with

Ms. STOGA: Thank you.

DAVIES: Nora Moran, thank you so much as well.

Ms. MORAN: Thank you.

DAVIES: And Paul Bang-Knudsen, thanks so much for coming in and bringing Samba
and telling us about your story.

Cpl. BANG-KNUDSEN: Thank you very much.

DAVIES: Gloria Gilbert Stoga founded the program Puppies Behind Bars. Nora
Moran is a former inmate, who now works at the program. Paul Bang-Knudsen is a
former corporal in the Marine Corp., who was wounded in Iraq.
Fresh air
12:00-13:00 PM
Sixties 'Vices' Collide In Pynchon's New Novel


Now in his 70’s, the acclaimed writer Thomas Pynchon is best known for long,
dense novels, most famously “Gravity’s Rainbow,” which won the National Book
Award in 1974. In his new book, “Inherent Vice,” he tries something completely
different: a private eye novel in the tradition of Raymond Chandler and Walter
Mosley. Our critic at large John Powers says it’s an enjoyable book by a writer
whose work can be daunting.

JOHN POWERS: It wasn’t so long ago that detective fiction was considered a low
brow form that was somehow beneath serious writers. The triumph of pop culture
changed all that. These days, many of our most acclaimed literary figures,
including Kazuo Ishiguro and John Banville, Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem,
are writing novels that send investigators walking down those famously mean
streets. The latest to do so is Thomas Pynchon, the publicity-shy 72-year-old
wizard who broke onto the scene in 1963 with “V,” a globetrotting epic about
paranoia and patterns, history and entropy that’s one of the great first novels
ever written.

In the decade since, he has made himself into a cult hero with a series of
dazzling, difficult books, most recently the underrated “Against the Day,” that
have fond the Earth like the monoliths at the beginning of “2001.” I know
people who swear that Pynchon has saved their lives. But I know others who say
he is literally unreadable. Nobody will say that about “Inherent Vice,” his
loosey-goosey new take on the L.A. private eye yarn. The scene is Gordita
Beach, 1970, and the Age of Aquarius is yawning, not dawning. The detective is
Larry Doc Sportello, a short big-haired stoner who’s closer to Elliott Gould’s
Philip Marlowe than to Humphrey Bogart’s. As for the case, well, it begins with
a woman, Doc’s ex-flame, Shasta.

She turns up asking for help with her current boyfriend, a real estate mogul
who’s been getting threats. Still love-struck, Doc agrees and promptly plunges
into the madness of L.A. noir, with his resurrected rockers and murderous neo-
Nazis, its hot to trot chicks, and needless to say, a friendly nemesis of a cop
who it is necessary to say is probably the book’s smartest and most complicated
character. For all it’s shagginess, “Inherent Vice” does honor the rituals of
the traditional detective story. Doc follows leads, goes undercover, gets
conked on the noggin. There’s even a fresh description of the Santa Ana Winds.
Their dryness causes the state seals on tequila bottles to come unstuck.

And these have been a stable of Southern California fiction since Raymond
Chandler’s story, “Red Wind.” At the same time, the book brims with Pynchon’s
trademark silliness, from characters with names like Jason Velveeta and Sledge
Poteet, to elaborate riffs on pop culture - for instance an imaginary TV movie
called “Godzilligan’s Island,” or a hilarious discussion of Charlie the Tuna’s
death wish. I suspect that for Pynchon, as for so many other so-called literary
writers, one great appeal of detective fiction is that it’s formulaic. This
takes away the pressure to be brilliantly original. You just followed the rules
and burrow into what excites you.

That’s what Pynchon does in “Inherent Vice,” probably the closest thing to
autobiography we’ll ever get from this most private of writers. He lived in
Manhattan Beach during the late 1960s, and in its cockeyed way the novel glows
with his nostalgic fondness for countercultural L.A. with its surfers and
druggies, its rock and roll dreamers, and beautiful losers. These include the
soulful, chivalrous Doc, a terrific character who loves Lakers Star Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar and the brooding blacklisted actor John Garfield. I’m betting that
Pynchon does too. Precisely because the book is deliberately minor, it feels
like one from the heart.

Of course, the limitation of detective novels is that what’s most satisfying
about them, the way things all tie up, can become predictable, even mechanical.
This doesn’t matter so much when an author invents a whole world, as in Michael
Chabon’s marvelous tour-de-force, “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.” But it’s a
real letdown in a more straight forward mystery like Banville’s “Christine
Falls,” a hauntingly dank evocation of ‘50s Dublin that ultimately gets bogged
down in the busywork of who did what and why, the sort of bookkeeping that
dedicated crime writers usually do better than literary stars. Here Doc solves
the crime, but the book ends not with reassuring closure, but with an
intimation of huge sinister forces and our hero driving in heavy fog.

In this, “Inherent Vice” offers a simplified version of Pynchon’s enduring
political theme, the way that the search for freedom and solidarity, be by the
Wobblies or bebop musicians or 60’s longhairs, is forever being done in by
those who would appropriate the whole world under the banner of greed and fear.
Like a good noir detective, Pynchon roots for the underdog. But he knows that
the world’s inherent vice is that it belongs to the powerful.

DAVIES: John Powers is film critic for Vogue. Thomas Pynchon’s new book is
“Inherent Vice.” You can download podcasts of our show at
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?


Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR


Daughter of Warhol star looks back on a bohemian childhood in the Chelsea Hotel

Alexandra Auder's mother, Viva, was one of Andy Warhol's muses. Growing up in Warhol's orbit meant Auder's childhood was an unusual one. For several years, Viva, Auder and Auder's younger half-sister, Gaby Hoffmann, lived in the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. It was was famous for having been home to Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Virgil Thomson, and Bob Dylan, among others.


This fake 'Jury Duty' really put James Marsden's improv chops on trial

In the series Jury Duty, a solar contractor named Ronald Gladden has agreed to participate in what he believes is a documentary about the experience of being a juror--but what Ronald doesn't know is that the whole thing is fake.


This Romanian film about immigration and vanishing jobs hits close to home

R.M.N. is based on an actual 2020 event in Ditrău, Romania, where 1,800 villagers voted to expel three Sri Lankans who worked at their local bakery.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue