Somewhere over Taupo during my flight to Hawke's Bay last week the pilot informed the passengers that the temperature in Napier was -4C.
By the time we arrived it was a balmy zero but the beginnings of one of those beautifully crisp clear sunny winter's day that I remembered well from a Hawke's Bay childhood.
My visit was aimed at advancing an interesting and promising project that has fallen into the hands of the Howard League courtesy of the Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters.
As those who have followed Winston's long political career will know, he's always had a strong interest in the racing industry and right now is promoting a reform of the legislation around an industry that's flagging with a view to giving it a shot in the arm.
Racing generates lots of jobs and consists of the three codes - thoroughbred racing, harness racing and greyhound racing.
The project that the Howard League has adopted involves putting retired greyhounds into jails to be looked after by prisoners.
The objective is to train and domesticate these dogs so that, after a period under the care of prisoners, they can go on to a second career as family pets.
Before agreeing to commit the Howard League to the project I did some homework and found that about 700 greyhounds are retired from racing every year.
Greyhounds are like humans in that their best years are when they are young and just as you don't find 50-year-old humans winning 100m races, you don't find 4-year-old greyhounds winning their races either.
They make good pets and there is no shortage of demand for these animals which are passed on at no cost.
I talked to a couple of families who adopted these retired racing dogs and they spoke highly of them.
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They are friendly dogs, loyal company, a bit lazy and good with children.
Some need a period of domestication and a good place to do this is in a jail where prisoners, with a lot of time on their hands and the need to discover their empathy gene, can follow a programme which not only produces a domesticated pet but also can get the prisoner a certificate in dog handling.
These qualifications are valuable and released prisoners can look for employment at boarding kennels, local pounds and even the many rural occupations - like sheep farming - which are dependent on healthy well-trained dogs.
So here we have a project which is good for the dogs, good for prisoners who learn to care for an animal and hopefully get a skill, and good for the families who get a free pet.
These programmes are well established in the USA and Australia and the positive outcomes for all concerned are proven.
Greyhound Racing New Zealand and the Department of Corrections conducted a trial of the programme with six greyhounds and six prisoners at Rimutaka Prison in Wellington.
This kind of programme fits in very well with rehabilitation programmes for difficult prisoners and I'm told that men were lining up to get involved.
Earlier this year the Howard League had a literacy programme graduation at Rimutaka Prison with Winston Peters as guest speaker.
I was able to meet one of the greyhounds and the prisoner who had been looking after this dog.
The prisoner spoke about the benefits to himself of learning to look after his assigned dog. He told me "I've never had anything to care about before, and nothing's ever cared about me".
He spoke about the discipline he'd learned (and enjoyed!) by following a study course and doing the tasks required by the course - like keeping a diary.
Greyhound Racing New Zealand generously put up the $70,000 need to establish the facility at the jail to house the dogs and to supply the trainer needed to facilitate the training course.
This trial certainly proved the viability and value of the programme in New Zealand and the Howard League will be looking raise the necessary funds to extend it to some other jails where it would be appropriate. Hence my visit to Hawke's Bay.
The acting manager at the Hawke's Bay Regional Prison was aware of the trial at Rimutaka Prison and keen to see the same programme offered at the jail.
The Hawke's Bay prison has one of only two youth units in New Zealand and it's likely that the kennel complex would be located near that unit which has plenty of space.
The Howard League has already raised a significant sum towards getting the programme started in Hawke's Bay and if readers of this column want to kick in a few dollars, just go to www.nzhowardleague.org.nz. Leave your email address and I'll make sure you're invited to the first doggie graduation!
*Mike Williams grew up in Hawke's Bay. He is CEO of the NZ Howard League and a former Labour Party president. All opinions are his and not those of Hawke's Bay Today.