Glock, a German shepherd once on the verge of being euthanized for aggression, lay down on the grass, paws up, and quietly enjoyed a belly rub from a new friend.
The 3-year-old purebred has undergone quite a transformation since being plucked from an animal shelter's death row, thanks to an unlikely group of dog trainers -- inmates at Men's Central Jail.
"Glock was a little aggressive, not obedient, didn't want to stay in the kennel," said John Buchholz, 40, an entertainment industry CGI artist from Downey jailed on an auto theft charge. "In a matter of weeks, through a daily routine where we take turns every half hour to train him, we've seen progress."
Glock and Buchholz are part of the new Custody Canine Program run by the Sheriff's Department in partnership with dog behaviorist Rick Belmonte, who owns Belmonte's Dog Training and Equipment.
Sgt. Raymond Harley, with the department's Education-Based Incarceration Bureau, said it accomplishes several purposes aside from rescuing dogs.
"This gives our inmates something productive to do while they're in jail," he said. "This teaches them dog handling skills, training skills, things that could translate into jobs in the outside world."
Under the program, two dogs are placed for three to five weeks in a dormitory holding 36 low-risk inmates, who will share the responsibility of caring for them, as well as housebreaking and training them to obey basic commands.
So far, eight dogs have been adopted, all of them by staff at the jail.
There was Cameo, a Jack Russell terrier and Chihuahua mix once dubbed a "little diva" for demanding constant attention; Roxie, a Doberman who used to bark at everybody; and Rocco, a scarred pit bull that had been shot in the chest and left for dead.
Aside from Glock, the current occupant of the dormitory is Jet, a 1-year-old hound dog mix whose trainers include Caesar Cunanan, 35, an audio engineer from Rancho Cucamonga doing time for a drug offense.
"Jet has taught me how to care about something else besides myself," Cunanan said.
"It was stubbornness that led me to jail. Maybe if I had listened to people who tried to teach me something, then maybe I wouldn't have to be here," he added. "Jet's not always a good dog, but that's why we're training him."
Belmonte recognizes the irony in having convicted criminals teach proper behavior but said the program is about not giving up on someone, or some dogs.
"I like to look at this as a second-chance program, rehabilitating from the inside out," he said.
The department plans to bring the program to its prison for women -- the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood -- and to the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.
Sheriff Lee Baca believes the Education Based Incarceration Program as a whole should be expanded. He said if the county Board of Supervisors decides to build a new facility to replace Men's Central Jail, then the existing facility should be turned into classrooms.
"My belief is that people who enter jail should come out better than when they came in," Baca said during a news conference last month.
"This is an important aspect of reducing crime," he added.
To date, 7,000 of the department's 18,000 inmates have volunteered for one or more of 70 educational and vocational courses. Harley said classes to obtain a GED, learn computer skills or life skills -- such as parenting, anger management and conflict resolution -- are among the most popular.
Buchholz hopes the program will open doors for him, saying, "The more I work with the animals, the more I feel that this can be something bigger."
Cunanan said the dogs inspire him to turn his life around.
"They've been through a lot, and I can relate to that because I've been shot," he said. "Giving Jet a second chance makes me realize that I need to give myself a second chance as well."
Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.