the year 
I became a number
and a face
everyone recognized

but no one knew
not even me
who knew
less than nothing
of the woman
buried inside

a turning point
that year
that was
really more
than a year

the year I lived
on peanut butter,
mail call,
visiting day

the year I sank
into the deep muck
of depression,
fears and fate

the year when
I felt I wasn’t
entitled to smile
or dream

the year when
the darkness settled
and waters
became clear
and deep

the year I learned
that hope
is blue
like a springtime sky

and prayer is purple
bold and royal
and everywhere

the year
I was just a number

the year I became


who was always
hidden inside...

It was time to take stock. I felt as disposable as the 670,000 dogs put down in the United States every year so I started a prison dog program called Safe Harbor. 

Through Safe Harbor, I helped hardened inmates develop compassion and responsibility. I offered well-adjusted dogs to local families.

Tall, confident and cool, John Manard, a convicted murderer, noticed me. Regulations couldn’t smother the innocent smoldering between us. Safeguards designed to prevent such indiscretions fanned the flames. All fun and games until, under the nose of authority, I smuggled him out of Lansing Prison… in a dog crate.

A police helicopter spotlight illuminated our fugitive run. Driven like dogs, we raced down a dark Tennessee highway into the inevitable. Heavily armed officers pushed us into a tree at 100 miles per hour. 

Just the beginning, I went to prison where death, desertion and divorce were my visitors. Stripped bare and stripped of duty, within my story of ruin, I discovered who I wanted to be. I found freedom in the most unexpected place… behind bars.

Expect my memoir, Unleashed, soon on bookshelves everywhere.

Browse podcast appearances, media and events

Toby Dorr, October 2019