MIAMI TWP. - Joshua, a 1-year-old Great Pyrenees dog who weighs about 100 pounds, is part of a Christian ministry that helps pregnant women overcome addictions to alcohol or drugs.
"The priority here is to show them how they can talk with God, but at times we also need to just talk with a dog," said George Martin, executive director of Teen Challenge Cincinnati, which is in Clermont County.
Drug addicts tend to be self-centered, Martin said. Joshua, who was 7 weeks old when he began living at the maternity home on U.S. 50 in Miami Township, helps the women focus on building a caring relationship.
The nonprofit center, founded 2½ years ago as an adjunct to a 130-acre rehab ranch for men in Stonelick Township, rehabilitates women ages 18-35.
Five women now live in the circa 1850 home, and up to nine can stay. Treatment runs seven to nine months, and women who aren't pregnant are welcome when there is an opening, Martin said.
"Most of the women who come in here have led extremely dysfunctional lives," Martin said. "The day-to-day things (such as) walking a dog, to be able to just groom and spend time with the animal, they're not used to."
As part of their rehab, women help take care of the home, cook meals and even cut the grass on the 3¼-acre campus.
When the women are busy with such tasks, Joshua has had to remain indoors. It would be healthier if the dog could roam outdoors, Martin decided, so he contracted to buy an Invisible Fence.
The cost is usually about $1,000, but the one for Joshua would have been about $1,600 because he's so big and needed more space.
However, an electronic containment system was donated this week because Teen Challenge's mission impressed the national company that makes Invisible Fences and the local dealer who installs them.
Wiring for an Invisible Fence that encompasses about three-quarters of an acre was installed. A transmitter in the garage sends out a radio signal to a receiver on the dog's collar. If Joshua gets close to the underground wiring, the collar transmits a slight shock that stops him from leaving the boundary.
"It's the equivalent of rubbing your feet on carpet and touching metal," said Kerry McManus, president of Invisible Fence of Cincinnati.
The day the system was installed, McManus said, he had a chance to chat with those in rehab at the home.
"One of the women told how she was addicted to heroin and had her children taken from her," McManus said. "This is her last chance to clean up her act. She would be graduating in June, and going home and able to be with her children again. It was enough to bring tears to your eyes."