High Five

11/01/2022 03:47 AM By Lisa Anderson
Feature Story
Cindi Quick
Cindi Quick
Story by Lisa Anderson • Photos by Joshua Jacobs

High Five

Former Drug Dealer Trains Dogs for Veterans

Cindi Quick is constantly moving. She has a landscape business, she is a server at a local restaurant, and she is a canine behavior specialist. “I have some substantial debt from my types of charges. I have over $60,000 in fines, which is a huge financial burden. So, I haven’t had the option to slack.”

The charges happened while she was at college in Boca Raton, Florida, when she was arrested as a drug dealer and sentenced to five years in prison. But how did Cindi get herself into that mess?

Mistakes

“I’m actually from Inglis, Florida, which makes Ocala look like the big city. I definitely thought of this as a big city growing up. I [grew] up in a household that had domestic abuse and substance abuse. That was very much a formative part of my experience, and it led me to the typical small town [thinking], ‘I want to get up and get out as soon as possible.’ So, I went to college at Florida Atlantic University. That was a culture shock.

“Going to Boca Raton was eye-opening for me. I don’t want to say I was naïve, but I was a little naïve. I made some very poor choices when I was in college—the people I associated with and the things that I chose to do. I was very aware of the socioeconomic differences between myself and my peers.”

Cindi was at the university on a scholarship. She was used to living on a budget and with a poor mindset. “Everything [was] reduce, reuse, recycle. Then, I was surrounded by these people who just had ultimate wealth. That led me to want to attain that wealth for myself.”

Eventually, Cindi became involved with students who dealt drugs, and it didn’t take long for her to become a dealer, too. “Like I said, I was naïve, and I wasn’t really good at it.”

Without realizing it, Cindi was a mid-level dealer. She began towards the end of 2012, but by mid-2013 her home was raided, Cindi was arrested, and she was sent to prison for five years. “[Given] my home situation growing up, I had a little bit of a different idea of what the actual consequences for these actions were, because I saw it as normal. It didn’t make me very prepared for manipulation with other people; although, it did [give] me a lot of situational awareness.”
Carl Schneider

Prison

“Prison is everything that you’ve heard about in the stories and the books, and not at all the same all at once. It’s a huge contradiction. It actually was one of the best experiences of my life, believe it or not. I know that’s a weird thing to say, but it really gave me a moment to stop and think about what I was doing with my life, the direction I was going, and what I wanted to do moving forward. I did not want to repeat the mistakes of my family and move forward with those behaviors.”

Cindi’s incarceration not only gave her the opportunity to reflect, but it ultimately led her to dog training.

Training

Sitting still was not easy for Cindi. She has always been a motivated person, hyper-focused, and looking for creative projects. “The biggest hurdle for me in prison was boredom, because it is a very regimented routine. Every day, you are told what to do, what to wear, where to go, who you can talk to, who you can’t talk to, who you can touch, who you can’t touch. You can’t touch anybody, by the way. It’s very strictly enforced. That monotony was something I could not envision myself doing for five years and maintain my sanity. So, I did some research on the different programs that were available.”

Cindi had been at the Gadsden Correctional Facility in Quincy, Florida, prior to being transferred to Ocala, and that’s where she began working with a dog training program. “My first dog Pepper wound up going to a school for blind children.”

The dogs are with the inmates for 24 hours a day. A kennel is set up at the end of one of the beds in the dorm room-style cell. Sometimes, people express their concern for the dogs being locked up in the prison, but Cindi knows the dogs are treated well. “They’re the center of our world. They’re the only soft, warm, fluffy, loving thing [we have], because you can’t give hugs or touch anybody else. I’m an excessive high fiver, and we [couldn’t] do that. So, I teach all of my dogs [how to] high five as one of the first tricks, because sometimes, you just need a good high five.”
Mockup
When Cindi came to Ocala, she applied to be a part of the Patriot Service Dogs program. “[It] is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. We raise full-service dogs for veterans—free of cost.”

The puppies are typically donated and arrive to the nonprofit at about 8 to 10 weeks old. “They start training from day one. [They] stay with us for about two years, just until they reach their full maturity, and we can put them through a full medical examination to make sure that their hips, their elbows, everything is good physically on them, before they’re placed with their veterans.

“They learn over 90 commands,” Cindi states. These range from positions to object differentiation and retrieval to mobility and balance and PTSD. “All of our commands, we do both hand signals and verbal cues. This way the dog can be set up for success with both. We never know what our veterans are going to need until later on in the process.”

The dogs spend time bonding with their main trainer, but they also spend time with other trainers in the program so that they will follow the commands from anyone who gives them. “This way they can be effective no matter who is holding their leash. This way, when they go to their veteran, they’re good to go.”

Cindi has had four long-term dogs since 2015, but she has helped train about 20 to 25 dogs. “While it can be difficult to give them up, the great thing about it is there’s always another dog.”

Freedom

Training dogs helped remove the sting of loneliness in prison, and it created a skill set for Cindi after her early release. “I was very lucky to be a part of a work release program while I was still incarcerated.” She had a job in Orlando at a doggie daycare and boarding facility. She became a kennel manager, while still in prison, and the job was waiting for her at the time of her release.

Coming back into the world wasn’t exactly a smooth transition. Cindi was faced with more choices than she had available to her in the last 4 ½ years, but she had made amends with her family and had a support system in place with friends.

She also had the opportunity to continue working with Patriot Service Dogs, once she was settled, and she still works as a volunteer consultant with them to this day.
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Extended Content

Watch the full interview on our podcast!

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