Toby Dorr: From Felon to Female EmpowermentDec 09, 2023
BVH-Today's interview is with Toby Dorr, a woman with a felony conviction. She found herself in the lowest point possible in prison, on suicide watch. While in prison, she was able to firsthand see the need to help the brokenness of female inmates. She has now been approached by Dateline and Lifetime to share her story. Toby has now written a memoir and has a series of workbooks to help women mend the pieces of their life. She has taken a bad decision and turned it into a positive healing platform for others. I hope you are moved as much as I was by Toby's interview.
BVH-Welcome back. This is Brandy Von Holten and today I have a special guest with me. Her name is Toby Dorr. Toby has a very different background. Toby actually used to work within the prison system and she was helping inmates work with dogs. Then she fell in love with one of the inmates and broke him out. They had a little rendezvous for a while, then she got caught, and did some prison time. Now, this is a highly educated woman, and whenever she was in prison, it is my understanding, that she got to see firsthand that the chance of an inmate going back to prison is extremely high. What she got to see was how to help these women and that there's a need to help women that are broken, to get unbroken, and to actually heal. She has developed a workbook and she's written books, and she's been talked to by lifetime and, we'll get into all of this or hear about her story. Behind something negative, something positive has got to come out of this. She has taken her situation, but then it made her aware of this great need there was to help women grow and develop and to heal from being incarcerated so they can come out and not be repeat offenders and move on in a productive manner. Before we even get started, we've all done something bad. I know that I have done bad things before so no judgment there. She has done her time and now she's on the other side and trying to help people. And it's all about picking up the pieces and moving on. So Toby, let's start with anything that I said wrong. Any big corrections on?
TD- I think everything you said, Brandy, was pretty right on.
BVH-Tell me, what's your certifications? Where are your college degrees? What all you did to and then what exactly were you doing in the prisons with the dogs?
TD- Well, before I started the prison dog program, I had two bachelor's degrees, one in Business Administration, and one in management of accounting. I had a corporate career at Sprint, and got laid off in 2001, in the big tech downfall. And I realized that I wanted to do something outside of the corporate world. So I took a part time job at my vet clinic, which quickly turned into a full time job, and I loved working with the animals. In 2004, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and that kind of is a wake up call, even though my cancer was very curable. I'm okay now, but hearing the word cancer after your name kind of makes you stop and think, “Oh, my, you know, I'm not here forever. Oh, no. And what have I done to make my time worthwhile?” I hadn't done anything. I'd taken vacations, you know, and I'd had a corporate career but I wasn't I wasn't changing the world. I wasn't making a difference.
BVH- You know, Toby. I don't know if a lot of people know this, but I actually had cancer before of my uterus. A lot of people, they don't know. They don't know why David and I don't have children and like every now and then somebody will get real brave and ask me. Well, I had cancer of my uterus. And then I also had a tumor in a breast before that they had to remove and that wasn't cancerous. But anyways, I understand. Hearing the big C word, cancer, is scary. But here we are. Here we are.
TD-Yeah, it's just like anything else in life, you can move on from it. And I decided that it was time I start doing something to make a difference in the world. And I really fell in love with the idea of a prison dog program because I'd seen one on TV, but I had no idea how to start one. So I thought, well, I'll do the next best thing. I'll start a dog rescue group and I'll take in dogs. We lived out in the country, we had 10 acres, we had a few horses and I thought I have space in my barn. I can bring a few dogs in here and I can train them and I can take them to dog adoption events. Within a few days of my decision to start the dog rescue group, a representative from the prison right up the street from us came to me and said, “Have you ever thought about doing a prison dog program?” And I was like, “Well, of course that's been my dream”. I mean, how does this happen? It was just like providence, you know. So he came to approach me on a Monday and on Wednesday, I did a two hour presentation for the warden and the executive team at the prison. On Friday, I took seven dogs into the prison and Safe Harbor Prison Dog Program was born.
BVH- Alright, wow, like that right there sounds like it was meant to be.
TD-It was. It was.
BVH-How long did you do that?
TD- I did the prison dog program for 18 months. And in that 18 months, I rescued 1000 dogs.
BVH- Well, that right there deserves like a huge round of applause. You know what I mean? Because this podcast, Big Boss Mare, and most of my horse people love dogs. I know I can't say everybody loves dog. I can say every one of my closest friends loves dogs, so man, 1000 dogs.
TD-Every dog I took was going to be put to sleep if I didn't take them.
BVH- Ah, okay, well, that right there makes me already love you even more.
So yeah, it was awesome. And I felt so good. And I knew that I could make a difference in the lives of these dogs. But I wasn't prepared for the difference I made in the lives of the inmates. Because, you know, as humans, we're social creatures. And can you imagine going 10 or 20 or 30 years without ever hugging anyone? No, it doesn't work. So by bringing these dogs into the prison, and I had them live with the inmates in their cells, so any inmate in that prison, whether they were in the dog program or not, could walk up to a dog and pet them and hug them and take them for a walk if they wanted to. And almost overnight, it just changed the whole atmosphere of the prison.
BVH- Oh, yeah. Man, I couldn't even imagine. I love my dog. Her name's Katie Ray. We two named her because she's country and all country animals and people get to named, like my brother's Gary Linn. But, man, I could just see that right there. So many people are broken and we don't even realize how broken. We're not talking about people in prison. We're talking about just people in general, and just man, I see so many people that their animals are their children or their spouse. It's their opportunity to be real with something. They don't have to hide anything from their dog. And their dog loves them no matter what, it's unconditional. People live longer with animals, right?
TD-That's right. They certainly do. So the prison dog program, I was so proud of it. And it made such a difference. And at 16 months into the prison dog program. My dad was dying of cancer and I was really struggling with that. Because when I was five years old, my dad got burned really bad in an accident in our yard. I saw it, and I remembered it. And I know now, after lots of counseling and lots of time that, that little five year old girl kind of fractured off and was a broken part of me that never grew up. And the idea of my dad dying again, because at the time he was burned and he was gone for 10 months in the hospital, I believed he was dead. And I just couldn't do it anymore. And so, there was an inmate in the prison who kind of stood out. He was intelligent and he spent a lot of time talking to me and he noticed that I was struggling with something and asked me. We started talking about my dad dying, and then our conversations just developed and led to something not proper.
BVH- But it's human. It's human nature. I mean, we are human, we are animals. People have needs, emotional needs and physical needs.
TD- And at that particular time in my life, I was just having a meltdown. Really emotionally, and…
BVH-You don't have to justify the need for love. You know what I mean? Like, yes, it was with a prisoner but I still understand emotions.
TD-Yeah, that's really important. Thanks for saying that. Because I do feel like a lot of times I have to justify it. But maybe I don't know, maybe from now on, I won't.
BVH- Well, you know, what I will tell you is whenever, because I met you and your husband, not the same husband that you had…
TD- Not the one I broke out of prison either.
BVH- Oh, yeah, so I've met him before and, you had told me the story. And actually, I was not receptive to it at first. But now I've evolved as a person. And I'm just like I don't need to be judging anybody. You know what I mean? You got in trouble for that, you did your time. But now, I love the helping that you can help with others. And now I realize that without you having the uh oh moment that this part couldn't have happened. There are so many bad things that people have done, but it's what they make of it. So now, I'm like a big fan. But at first, I was really turned off. I was like, man, she's going to make money off of doing something bad. But now I see the growth that can happen for hundreds of 1000s of people. And if these people, these women that are incarcerated, can come out being better then it's going to make our whole society better.
TD- That's true. My feeling is that every one of us here has something special that we can bring to the world, right? And we have this whole group of people that, as a society, we've just discarded them and written them off. Now they're in prison, and they're not redeemable and they can't do anything. But what if we can heal those people? And when they come out, they can bring forth that one thing that they have to contribute to the world? And we all win?
BVH- Yeah, most definitely. Or from a tax payers perspective, then we can spend our money on other things. If we're not having to pay for somebody that's incarcerated. Oh my gosh, do you know how many hungry people we could feed or roads need to be fixed or other things need to be done instead of paying for someone that's incarcerated. So if we can make them into productive citizens, then Heck yeah, this is great, right?
TD- And they have a unique thing that they can offer that a lot of people can't because they've been somewhere that's been so dark, and so unredeemable, and to overcome that, boy, they just bring forth a passion and a strength that right The world needs.
BVH- You know, we've had these All Around Cowboy Challenges at Von Holten Ranch and I remember one of the people that had competed in ours had done some prison time. And then he was working as a dump truck driver. While he was in, I put him in a couple of magazines, and some of his friends and family members were like, “Oh my gosh, you don't understand how just to be, you know, not judged.” Being like, oh, there's that dump truck driver that did prison time before. No, we're like, “Dude, that's a bad mamma jamma! He won the All Around Cowboy Challenge.” And then I got to see the love that he had towards his family. Man, he appreciated being able to do these events. He appreciated the sitting around the campfire and the time spent with family and getting to see laughter. It was very emotional for me and other people didn't understand what was going on. But man, whatever I got with knowing his background, and then getting to watch him. I hope that other inmates get to feel that and appreciate it. You know what I mean? It was it was very life changing for me to be able to be part of that event.
TD-Yeah. And, you know, people that have been in prison, especially right after they get out- like the first two years, It's a huge adjustment period. But you don't take things for granted at all. I mean, I just appreciated being able to open a door and walk out of it whenever I wanted to. I mean, sometimes I just spent 20 minutes going in and out the door, because it was such a cool thing.
BVH- Okay, that you had the freedom. See, I was thinking, Oh, I could have good coffee. You know, I get to wear what I want to wear. But you were like, going through a door? Yeah, I didn't even think about that as so.
TD- You know I was living with my mom, right when I got out of prison and she said, Toby, you bring such delight to my days because I love watching you fall in love with everything all over again.
BVH- Okay. All right. So you and this gentleman, you helped him escape. You helped him escape, and then how long until y'all were caught?
TD- It was almost two weeks, okay. 12 days, actually.
BVH- And you know what, I don't want to spend a lot of time on this part right here. But I know inquiring minds. Well, they always want to know, you know, everybody always wants to know that then. Okay, so y'all were out for two weeks. Well, and at the time you were you were married?
TD- I was married and so that that marriage ended.
BVH- It did. Okay.
TD-And you know, the crazy thing is my one sane thought when I agreed to the escape was, I guess they will let me get divorced now.
BVH- Uh huh. Okay, so you were ready for it.
TD- I was yeah. And I had been trying to make a change. And I just didn't have the strength of character. And I didn't feel like my family would support me in that decision and, and I just felt kind of trapped.
BVH- Man. I know feeling trapped is not a good feeling. It's never a good feeling.
TD-Oh, no. It leads you to do desperate things.
BVH-Oh, yeah. I mean, most people know that I have like a fight background. And sometimes when we're training, we'll fight multiple opponents. And they call that bull in the ring. Because then you get very brassy and stuff gets real. And that's that trapped feeling. I've seen women that were in abusive relationships. And they didn't have the money to get out of them. And that trapped feeling. That's when bad stuff happens. But whenever they think that they're trapped, they're not really trapped. We have Von Holten Ranch and it's got some debt. We've got some years that it's going to take us to pay off. But people are like, “Whoa, you're trapped.” I’m not trapped. If we wanted to get out of this, we could tomorrow, be out of this. You know what I mean? We could still do something different. I'm not trapped. I love what I do. You know what I mean? So if you think that you're trapped in a relationship that's not working, you can get untrapped.
TD- That's right.
BVH- Um, you got untrapped real fast.
TD-I didn't get untrapped. And so you know, my message to women today is that I want to inspire them to escape their prisons. Because we all have prisons, and almost all of them are self made. And we hold the key to every single one of them. We just have to have the strength of character and the confidence to unlock those doors and leave.
BVH- Okay, so Tony Robbins, do you know him?
TD- I do.
BVH-You do okay. Tony Robbins is a motivational speaker. And he talks about how people, whenever they're trying to quit smoking, they'll say how it took me 20 years to quit smoking. It took me 30 years to quit smoking. He's like no, it didn't. It took you one second. Whenever you decided to make that change. It might have taken you 20 years to get to that one second.
TD- Hmm, that's exactly right.
BVH- Yeah. So I love Tony Robbins. He's got some great things but something that he has said before, I think it's him because my I got it from my martial arts instructor citizen, “If anything matters, everything matters”. I get a lot out of that so, little shout out to Tony Robbins right in the middle of this. Okay, so, how long did you end up having to serve?
TD-I served 27 months.
BVH- 27 months. Okay, so that's two years and three months?
TD- That’s right. And the funny thing is when I first went to jail, and went to court for the first time, and my attorney, who was my brother's best friend, came to court and he said, “Your Honor, I just took her case last night. I haven't even had chance to talk to my client. Could I get a two week continuance and we'll come back in two weeks?” And I had this big meltdown because I was like, two weeks? I have to stay in jail for two weeks? I can't do that. Now I just laugh at two weeks.
BVH- Oh, yeah because it turned into a lot longer. Okay, so, before this, we were talking and she was like, man, whenever I was doing prison time, I had time. And then I immediately was like, Oh time, oh my gosh, if I give someone my time, that's my love language. There's like five love languages. Which I'm not saying prison is a love language. If you take that from this, you are not listening, okay? I'm just saying, time is so valuable, you know, and so you had time and here you are, you're an educated woman, you've got time to reflect, but then you got time to meet people also and see a different side of something that you would have never been able to see if you didn't.
TD-So there was this pivot point while I was in prison. And, and it changed everything for me. But it was that moment when I realized, wow, for the first time in my life, I have this gift of time, I can use all this time to look back at my life, and figure out what's broken, you know, and start digging in those wounds. Because to heal, I think you got to dig in, I'm going to pull out the scabs and let it bleed all over again, and work through that pain. And I had the perfect opportunity to do that. And so after I got out of prison, that didn't mean that by the time I was out of prison, I was done healing. I spent years in counseling, and it took me quite a while.
BVH- Hey, did they have counselors in prison?
TD- No, I mean, yes, but it's a joke. So here's the deal, okay. They have counselors in prison, and you go sit in their office for 20 minutes. And they’re just like, “So how you doing today?” You know, “Going out to the yard later?” I mean, it's nothing.
BVH- I wonder what their workload is.
TD-It's probably pretty high.
BVH- I bet it's just not able for them to really get into anything. I kind of feel sorry for them because of the workload is probably not okay.
TD-That's right. And when I was in prison, I don't recall there ever being more than one counselor at any prison. For hundreds of people.
BVH- And for your experience that poor counselor was not set up for success.
TD- Oh, he was not.
BVH- It was a gentleman? Okay. Which is okay, you know, there's gynecologists that are men and women. I've just like assumed it would have been a female.
TD- I’ll tell you what I did when I got out of prison, and I started going to a counselor and I went to a guy counselor for a while, and then I transferred to a woman counselor, and you know, that's just what I needed.
TD- The woman has that emotional connection to the brokenness in me.
BVH- Well we are just different. Yeah, we're women, we are different. And you know what, I love that you're talking about going to counseling. I mean, I've been to a counselor before, I know, whenever we cashed in my retirement to build our ranch, and spent it in 24 hours, I went to a counselor. It makes my stomach turn, just thinking about it. But that insecurity, messed with me more than what I realized. I went to a counselor for a month over that, and I've went to a counselor over my weight before. So man, if you are embarrassed about going into counseling, then you're hanging out with the wrong people.
TD-That's exactly right. Yeah, counseling is the best thing you can do for yourself.
BVH- Oh, man. Yeah, because I have so much junk in this head. And everybody has junk. We I got junk in my head. I got junk in the trunk. I got junk everywhere. Okay. Yeah, you can help me. People buy organizational tools. Well, your mind needs to be organized. I need to process and stuff. So do not let therapy have a bad thing in your mind. Therapy is a beautiful thing. If somebody is making fun of you. Don't listen to them. I mean, the five people you spend the most time with in your life is basically who you are. And if one of those people is not supporting you for going to therapy, then you are down to four and get another number five, okay.
TD- You know, Chris, who's my husband now, he has been such a godsend for me, because he's supported me in everything I've done and has pushed me to heal and grow. So he's a large part of why I'm where I am today. And I think that's what a marriage should be.
BVH- Oh, I my husband. I love him so much because he loves me and here I am doing a Big Boss Mare podcast, and you know, I've had people in my life tell me that no man would ever want a large wife and my husband's all like, hey, let's trademark Big Boss Mare. We put it on some leggings and all sorts of stuff. You know, we got to embrace things.
TD- I think that's awesome.
BVH- I hope that other people get to have the relationship that I have got to have with my husband. And it sounds like you too would wish this relationship upon other people.
TD-It's it makes you complete.
BVH- Oh, it really does.
TD- You know, Chris's mom, used to say this, that a marriage is not two people standing and gazing into each other's eyes lovingly. It's two people standing on a path and moving forward together but their eyes are on the same path.
BVH- My husband, his name is David. One plus one usually equals two. But with us one plus one equals three. We are better together.
TD- Yeah, I know. I always say, one plus one equals 11.
BVH- Oh, okay.
TD- And it's exponentially more.
BVH- Yes. Yeah, most definitely. Yeah, men finding a great spouse. And you know, sometimes people don't get it right the first time.
TD- That's exactly right.
BVH- Just a warm up round. Right?
TD- A really long warm up.
BVH- Okay, so where were we in your story/.
TD- So I had this experience when I was in prison, and I was on suicide watch. I'd been on suicide watch several different times. But this one particular time was the only time I should have been on suicide watch. And I was just praying, you know, please, please, just let me die. I don't want to deal with this. This is something I can't overcome. You know, this is such a bad place. I don't know how to get out from where I am. I don't know how to get past this broken mess that I am. And I heard this voice come into that suicide watch cell. And it said, you will get through this. And I'll be right here with you every step of the way. And when you get out of here, you are going to use your story to change the lives of women. And I feel like that was God talking to me. And so I took that to heart. And I felt like you know, I had a commandment, I had a directive, I had a purpose in life. And so when I got out of prison, I knew that I needed to act on it. Because it was so clear to me that my story could change the lives of women. So I started writing a book. And it took me 10 years because I wasn't ready to tell the story. I had so much more healing to do. But when I got to the point last year where I was ready to tell the story, I had my book finished in 10 weeks. Okay, and I have an agent now, we have some publishers looking at it's not published yet but the Coronavirus shut down the whole publishing industry. So one day and I kind of had this feeling so I wrote this memoir and the memoir is all about rebuilding my life. So it's about how to go back in your life and take the broken things and work through them and how to heal them. It's not really like a salacious novel of a prison escape.
BVH- Right, That's like such a small part. I mean, I know that's what everybody's like, Oh my goodness, this lady is a felon felon and you've done prison time. But literally that's the beginning.
TD- That was the catalyst for everything else.
BVH- This right here could not have happened without the crime.
TD- That's right and I believe we only grow when we're in the deep valleys.
BVH- Oh, girl. Yes. I know. I've been homeless. I've been homeless before. I've been homeless twice. And going through some stuff and that's whenever I figure things out, you know, and I have failed college classes and was on academic probation and by gosh, that's whenever I got serious about stuff. It's easier to give birth and the raise the dead but then sometimes you have to step back and raise the dead.
BVH- Because it's easier to start with something new and fresh than not. Nobody had lived here for 40 years when we bought this, and do you know how much easier it would have been to pick a different part of the ranch and build everything clean. But instead we had… ugh. Yes, whenever you find yourself at the bottom, that's whenever beautiful things are going to happen.
TD- You only have one way to go, you can either stay there or you can go up.
BVH- I know from where you were all the way down to like suicide watch. I mean, that's deep. That's a low spot. And I've had family members that committed suicide. And they it's a dark, dark place. And I'm happy that you came up out of this. And I love seeing you out of prison. I love seeing these. I'm getting to look at her books, and they're beautiful, and to see that you have blossomed into somebody who's going to help others, just the fact that you're going to be able to help others. So tell us about some of these books.
TD- Yes. So you know, I wrote the memoir.
BVH- what's the difference between a memoir and a book?
TD- A memoir is a type of book. So like there's, you know, historical fiction, and there's horror stories, and there's thrillers and there's true crime. A memoir is just a book about your life. It's a true story about how you perceive the things.
BVH- So a biography and a memoir?
TD- They're different because the biographies written by somebody else looking in, a memoirs written by the person.
BVH- So an autobiography?
TD- It’s like an autobiography but the difference is an autobiography is like, this is the day I was born. And this is where…
BVH- it's more timeline
TD- a memoir is just a piece of your story.
BVH- Okay, I had to be educated sorry, that we had to pause the podcast for a second.
TD- Maybe someone else that had that same question. So, you know, I knew I could reach women with my memoir. But I felt like there was something more I needed to do, something that more directly impacted the women in prison. And so I had this idea, I went back and thought about that pivot point I reached in prison, where I realized that I could use this time to work on myself instead of just counting down the minutes of a day. And so I created a workbook called Butterflies Unleashed. And when I started working on this workbook, all these things about butterflies kept coming to me. Butterflies have this amazing transformational story. And so I thought, if I could tell that story to women in prison, but then relate all the stages of a butterfly's life to their life, that would make it easier for them to understand where they could go. And so I created the first workbook, and it's a three month program, a 12 week program for women in prison. And it's called Butterflies Unleashed, and it's a journey of transformation. So, in that workbook, we have six exercises in every week. And we have a creative exercise because I want to tap into all parts of a woman's mind, not just one. So we have a creative exercise, we have a writing exercise, we have a research exercise. And then I share a story of a woman who's been in prison and has gotten out and has successfully rebuilt their life.
BVH- So would this work with this workbook help other women that have nothing to do with prison.
TD- Yes, it would.
BVH- So describe a woman that this would help that has not been incarcerated?
TD- It would help any woman because in my opinion, I think every woman has something broken in their life that they are, you know, either actively working on or not even aware of. But I give speeches a lot to groups of women, and I call them the “country club women” that you know, I go to these big country clubs, and there are women who are fluent in society. And there they have their attorneys, or they're married to attorneys, or you know, they have a place in society. They’re someone that everybody looks up to.
TD- Yes, prestigious. And when I go talk to those groups of women, they are all sobbing while I'm speaking. And they come up to me afterwards and go, Oh, my God, you're me. And I was one of those corporate wives. I wasn't married to a man who had a corporate job, but I had a corporate job. And I was a wife, right. And I did all those things, too. And I was so broken inside, but I didn't know how to address it. So when I go speak to these “Country Club women”, and they come up to me and say, I can understand, I can be right there. I understand exactly what you're saying. So it's their story to write. And I've sold these books online to all kinds of women.
BVH- So where can they find one of these?
TD- on my website, it is theunleashedseries.com.
BVH- Theunleashedseries.com. Okay, the butterfly, we were talking about it and coming out. Go ahead and I want you to tell this part.
TD- So one of the amazing things I learned about butterflies in this research is a caterpillar, in order to become a butterfly, they have to hang by a plug that they've created on the back end, and dropped down off of a leaf. Well, first of all caterpillars are all about clinging on, they never like go. So in order to transform they have to be willing to totally let go and trust in something they cant understand. And then they built this chrysalis around them right while they're in the chrysalis, the caterpillar completely dies. It ceases to exist. And inside there is is goo that reforms itself into a butterfly. So first of all, you have to be willing to let go and you have to be willing to die to everything you've known. And then this beautiful butterfly transformation takes place. And when the butterfly is ready to come out of the chrysalis, if you happen upon one, you can see them flexing their wings and the chrysalis is kind of moving and it looks kind of violent. And if you decide that you want to help them by just taking your fingernail and slitting open the chrysalis to help them get out, the butterfly will live, but they will never be able to fly.
BVH- Okay, so I want you to say that, that last part one more time.
TD- Okay. If you do what if you help a butterfly escape from its chrysalis, if you help it to break out of its chrysalis, it will live, but it will never be able to fly. Never okay, because it is the act of breaking free that gives its wings the strength to fly.
BVH- Okay, so I want to take that that sentence right there. And do you know how many people that never let their children struggle?
BVH- But then their kids don't have that fight.
TD- That's right.
BVH- They've got to, they need to fail. They need to wallow around. It needs to suck. It needs to just be awful. Because if everything is handed to them, they will never be able to fly. Yes, they will live. I don't know how much y'all know, but whenever I went to college, my parents didn't really agree with my boyfriend. Okay. And they disowned me for a little while. Okay. And we're way past that, David's awesome. David was not the boyfriend that my parents disapproved of. But I mean, they took the vehicle away. And college was rough. But then I remember one time needing to turn in a photocopy of something for a paper to prove where I'd gotten my sources and I graduated a while back, but it needed to be a hardcopy for this instructor. And I needed a dime, I needed 10 cents to pay for one piece of paper to print and I had to wait a week. And the assignment was late because I didn't have a dime. I remember going to a carwash, because a lot of times people will throw change out, to see if I could find 10 cents. So whenever you're talking about this butterfly won't fly if you help it and I'm over here like now whenever I see people that throw money away, I think about that dime so much and now even though our businesses doing better, I do calculate a profit margin for everything to check. I check everything, I check all amounts of shipping and everything because of that dime. I need to put a dime on a necklace or something because like great message, but man people don't understand. But that struggle has made me who I am , it's made me so much more aware. I will drive a little bit just to save some money on some fuel. I've clipped coupons. But that time, that experience of having to wait a week for 10 cents, it's ingrained into my soul. But whenever I hear that, that's the first thing I think about because Toby, and I have a lot of parallels. We have a lot of parallels about what she's trying to do. She has a different background than I do, thank goodness. But we love dogs, and we are both getting better. And we both had some rough times in our life. And we're all trying to help everybody. And I think if you can help someone learn from a piece of your story, that it makes that lesson. It’s not a total waste of time, because now it's the ripple effect. You can share it with so many other people.
TD- Most definitely. I think that's awesome. So I have finished my first workbook. And I decided that wasn't enough. So I have Bee Unleashed, which is a story of community and how, you know, a lot of times women that get in trouble in some way are because of the people they surround themselves with. The book is all about how to create a healthy community, how to find a healthy community, and how to be a productive member of a healthy community.
BVH- Oh, yeah. Well, we talked about that earlier, the five people you spend the most time with me, right? There's the bee thing.
TD- That's exactly right. Yeah. And so then there are, you know, I have the Dragonflies Unleashed book, which is a story of leadership. To help these women who feel a calling, just like I did to do something bigger, but not maybe knowing how to put a form to it. So that book is all about helping them find that vision.
BVH- People just don't know how to get started. They're like, oh, I want to do great things. But how do I get started? So this right here is a start.
TD- Yeah, so right now there's nine workbooks on the drawing board. So who knows how many I'll end up with, but it'll probably be more so.
BVH- Are are inmates allowed to have this? I don't know, you are going to have to educate me.
TD- So I've been working with some of the prisons and talking to them. I've been talking to the Chillicothe, the prison in Missouri here and they’re interested.
BVH- So women's prisons because cuz they probably won't let you work in the men's prisons anymore.
TD- The Women's. I can't even go in as a volunteer in the women's prison. Maybe someday I'll be able to, but right now, probably not. So there are programs already in a lot of women's prison. And so I'm working with the people who run those programs to bring this program in as part of their programs
BVH- Because this is professional development.
TD- Yes, it is. Yeah, it is. I'm also working with halfway houses, there's a couple of halfway houses in Kansas City that are using this workbook. And I want to approach battered women's shelters, and you know, all those kinds of things. And one of the things that I put together, which I think serves as such a great purpose is that, you know, when I go give those speeches to the country club women, all of them ask, “What can we do to make a difference?”
BVH- That's what I was thinking. I was like, could someone fund..
TD- We have a sponsorship program on the website.
BVH- okay, so you have a sponsorship program on the website.
TD- And so someone can go out there and sponsor a woman. And that includes, you know, contact with me and, you know, communications with me and the workbooks that they need. And so we do offer that on the website. And we've had several people take advantage of that, and sponsor women in prison so that I can send books to, and sometimes it's not a woman in prison, sometimes it's a woman who's out on parole, and she really needs help. So we've talked to parole offices, officers, and try to get some connections there. So anytime we have a woman who needs a book, and can't afford it, then we can help.
BVH- You know, and some people are going to have different levels of comfort, some people are going to be completely turned off by doing anything with somebody that's incarcerated, you know, so, but ladies that are going into a battered woman shelter, that would be a different option for them.
TD- That's correct. Yeah.
BVH- And lost my train of thought. So, okay, so why insects?
TD- Because they're so small, and we overlook them, we take them for granted. And they have these unbelievable stories. So you know, it's part of I just want them to be aware of what goes on around them. And everybody can go find a butterfly and you know,,
BVH- Right, it's just a connection. Well and how many women out there feel insignificant and taken for granted? How many people? It doesn't have to be a woman, you know, that's like a major thing right there about feeling insignificant or feeling, you know, like it doesn't matter.
TD- Telling the stories of these insects. So like bees, if we didn't have bees, we wouldn't eat.
BVH- well it is so significant. I don't know if the science is correct, but I've always been underneath the understanding that if bees weren't around, then the whole ecosystem just collapses.
TD- Four yours, that’s what we've got. Four years once the last bees gone. So you know, these insects have these amazing stories. And people don't realize what they are. And I think you can make parallels to your own life from just looking at the smallest of things.
BVH- Yeah. Well, and I think it's nice, instead of just somebody talking to them, saying you need to do this, you need to do that. But if you allow people to find their own truth in that. Like my book series is written from the horses perspective, you know, and then it allows people to draw their own truth from that. So it's so much better.
TD- Yeah, its safe to talk about the horses issues, or the butterflies issues. And it's a little bit scary to talk about, this is your issue.
BVH- Yeah. Well, okay. So the very beginning of our interview, you had talked about your father was passing away from cancer. Did he pass away?
TD- He did pass away. He died while I was in jail.
BVH- While you're in jail, okay. And so a lot of people have, quote, unquote, “Father issues”. Do you think that that was the beginning of yours? Was it a father issue?
TD- Well, I so looked up to my dad, he was the center of our world. And I lived my entire life, trying to do things that would make my dad proud of me. And so I cultivated this immense sense of duty and perfection, because I wanted to make him proud.
BVH- And was he proud of you?
TD- I think that he was. But, you know, there was seven of us kids, it's hard to stand out in a sea of seven. And my dad was not one to say, “Oh, I think you're doing awesome things”. You know, I believe he was proud of the things I'd done.
BVH- You know, my father lives here at the ranch with us now, and we have a different relationship that's better, for sure. But I know that I get to hear from trail guests all the time how proud he is of me. But I cannot remember him ever saying that to me. You know, and I'm okay with that. I'm okay with hearing it like indirectly. But I understand, you know, whenever I was younger, I did a lot of really cool things, but never did quite get that. So if you are listening to this, you need to tell people you're proud and people need to hear “I am proud of you.” People need to hear that. They don't need to know it. They don't need to think it or assume it. They need to hear it.
TD- They do need to hear it. That is important. I agree. So much of the time when we have little kids, we say, don't do that. Don't do that. Oh, don't go over there. Don't do this. Why are you doing that? We don’t ever say what a awesome thing you just drew. You know, we don't say that enough.
BVH- Right. Most definitely. I'm looking forward to this. I'm hoping that we can swap out some books or something. I would love to look at your book, you know?
TD- That's right. So I just want to share a couple other things. So when I got out of prison, I couldn't get a job. You know, I had two college degrees, I couldn't get a job. Nobody wanted to hire me because I was a felon. I don't blame them. There were 200 people applying for every job opening. So you got to throw people in the trashcan somehow.
TD- And so I ended up starting my own business. And I went back to school and got two masters degrees after I got out of prison.
BVH- At what age were you whenever you went back to get those masters?
TD- I was 55.
BVH- Yeah, that's great. Okay, so what are your masters in now?
TD- Internet marketing, and New Media Design, which I really lived on the design for this workbook. And then of course, internet marketing, internet marketing with my websites, and now it's helping me build a platform for these workbooks so well.
BVH_ Okay, so 55 going back and getting your master's in something to do with computers. I see some people struggle with some stuff. I have showed so many people how to take photos on their phone or I’m like, don't do this on Facebook. Don't you know this is how you need to interact. Okay, so my mom is in her 60s And I'm like, Mom, whenever you reply on social media everybody sees that. Quit introducing yourself as “this is Brandy’s mom from Arkansas” as like a reply. So I'm over here giggling because I'm like, Oh, 55 going back to college for something to do with, you know, a bit. That was rough.
TD- It was rough. But actually, I love going to school.
BVH- Oh, I'm sure.
TD- Yeah, had a fun time with it. And, you know, another couple things I want to throw out. The population of the United States doesn't quite make up 5% of the entire world's population.
TD- But we have 25% of the world's incarcerated population.
BVH- Okay, so hold on, you're saying that the United States population is only 5% of the total global population?
TD- Right. Not quite 5%? It's 4.8.
BVH- Good lord, I would have thought it would have been 15, 20.
TD- I would have thought so too
BVH- But I know that like Asia, is a lot more compacted than what we are.Do you know other countries numbers?
TD- I don't know their numbers, I should probably look them up.
BVH- I would love to know.
TD- Japan's got a pretty high population density, some of the other Asian countries, so, but we make up 4.8% of the global population.
BVH- But then 25% of all people incarcerated are from United States? I wonder if other countries kill them instead of incarcerating them?
TD- I think that in the United States, we throw people in prison for small things that really don't matter. I mean, that really aren't going to, you know, they're not a danger to society. And we give them longer sentences. So they're in there longer.
BVH- But you're not saying that the crime that you did, did not warrant a prison sentence.
TD- No I’m not saying that at all.
BVH- Right. Okay. I just wanted to clarify that. I didn't want anybody to be like, Oh, she heard me and I'm crying and then they switch.
TD- No, I needed to do my prison time. And I got a sentence that was just. And I'm satisfied with what I got.
BVH- Right. I don't even know what the percentage breakdown is. But I know like hot checks, I think people can end up doing time.
TD- But I was in jail with a woman who was a drug addict. And she turned to prostitution. And her husband had custody of their kids. And so they pick her up on the streets, and they put her in jail for failure to pay child support.
BVH- Okay, yeah. She needed she help, she needed education.
TD- So she'd sit in jail for 30 days. And then they open the door and put her right back on the street, right where they picked her up from and then she had no money to pay the child support because she'd been incarcerated. Later, she'd come back for 30 days more. I mean, that's such a vicious cycle. And it's nobody's winning and her children aren't winning. Her husband's not winning. She's not winning. The taxpayers aren't winning.
BVH- Yeah, that is like, all the way around. Rough.
TD- So there's alternatives, I think, to some of the prison sentences.
BVH- Do you keep up with that lady?
TD- No, I don't I don't keep up with her. But I do keep up with some of the women I was in prison with.
BVH- Okay. So I will tell you, man, like questions that I have. I'm over here like, was crime as bad as what people thought it was in prison?
TD- Well, here's the deal. There's a huge difference between men's prisons and women's prisons. Okay, so I spent 18 months as a volunteer inside the men's prison. And I was in there for eight or nine hours a day, right.
BVH- And this was before the incarceration this was with the dog, volunteer.
TD- Right. And in the men's prison, it is violent, it is dangerous. It is scary. It's a scary place. And you can get beat up or killed for the slightest thing. And I kind of expected the women's prisons were going to be the same way that they weren't it was like this big giant slumber party with a bunch of women with from high school on steroids. I mean, you'd get into fights over somebody curl their hair wrong and you know, to have women slapping each other and pulling hair but you didn't have any, you know, danger.
BVH- And so we'll make sure everybody knows that was your experience. But whenever you went to prison you were older and Toby's not very tall. I wonder if you got a different you know.
TD- I'm sure. Yeah, I'm sure that there are some women's prisons that are dangerous.
BVH- Oh, I'm sure.
TD- And I'm sure that everyone's experience could be different than mine. I was always in maximum custody, which is where most of the big problem people are. So I feel like I kind of got a good idea of what prison is like. But it wasn't nearly as violent and dangerous as a men's prison was. But the one difference is in the men's prisons, there were all kinds of programs for the men, there was GED classes, there were classes to teach them, you know, jobs that they could do outside. There was book clubs, there was things I didn't have.
BVH- They didn’t have that at your prison?
TD- I think the reason is, is because if the men don't get something to occupy them, they riot, they cause trouble. The women don't get something, you know, they just whatever, they don't stand up for themselves.
BVH- Do you know the number of men vs. women incarcerated?
TD- A lot more men incarcerated. I don't know what the numbers are.
BVH- I wonder if that's why there's more programs just because there's, yeah. Okay. So if you wanted to get in touch with Toby, if you're interested in this book, if you have any questions for her story, if you have anything, how can they get in touch with you?
BVH- Okay, so it's tobydorr.com
TD- That's right.
BVH- Okay, Toby Dorr. You know, we have so many parallels Do you know I own brandyvonholten.com. I own bigbossmare.com. Country-tough.com. I own vonholtenranch.com. There's even another one in there. I think I bought vonHoltenleatherco.com, but we're not doing anything with that yet. But like, how many people out there like here we are sitting at a table. You and I both have backgrounds. Both of us have written material and we're both trying to help the world be a better place.
TD- And I and when I listened to you read to me from your books earlier, it's so parallel to what I'm doing over here for women in prison. There's so many parallels.
BVH- Right. Okay. All right. Well, hey, guys, if you make sure in tune in to our next Big Boss Mare podcast, and I hope you have a wonderful day.
TD- Okay. Thanks, Brandy.
BVH- Thank you. Okay, bye.
Stay connected with news and updates!
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.