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Gloria Stoga

Stoga started Puppies Behind Bars in 1997, combining two of her lifelong passions: dogs and philanthropy. Prominent in charity circles Stoga was a member of a city commission helping inner teens find employment when her sister mailed her a newspaper clipping. The article described an Ohio penitentiary where prisoners reared pups for the visually impaired. Stoga knew she had found her calling. But there was a problem: Every guide dog school in New York that Stoga contacted wanted their puppies brought up in loving families not by convicts in a cell block. "The schools thought it was a stupid idea," Stoga recalls. She was undeterred. Stoga teamed five canines the schools had passed over with ten inmates at a maximum security women's prison upstate. After 18 months with their incarcerated owners, the pups were retested by the schools and two became working guide dogs. "Here were people written off by society, raising puppies written off as guide dogs," Stoga says. "And they succeeded."