Inmates train service dogs to help wounded warriors, change their own lives in the process

When wounded veterans come back from the battlefield, they’re often unable to do a lot of simple tasks and chores independently. Luckily, many can rely on a service dog that is specifically trained to help out with daily situations and make the life of a wounded hero significantly easier.

However, not all veterans are able to take in a service dog in a short amount of time because there are simply not enough dogs available. The average waiting period for a service dog is five years, which makes the entire process painfully long.

Prison inmates are now changing the lives of themselves, the service dogs and the United States veterans. At the Enfield Correctional Institution in Connecticut, for example, they collaborate with the nonprofit America’s VetDogs.

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Source: WTNH News8

America’s VetDogs is an organization that trains service dogs and other service animals specifically to help wounded military people and veterans who suffer from PTSD.
The prison chooses a number of inmates based on the nature of their crime, their behavior inside the prison and the length of the sentence they’ve received. The prison in Enfield got over 600 applications from inmates to be a dog ‘owner’.
The inmates work and live together with their service dog in training for five days a week. The dogs even sleep in their own comfy cage inside the inmate’s prison cell.
The people inside the prison aren’t only changing the lives of the dogs and the veterans thanks to their actions, but they’re also bringing out the best version of themselves.

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Source: TODAY

Tyrel, an Enfield inmate, had the opportunity to talk to TODAY: “It definitely makes me feel a lot better about myself, because after committing a crime, being in here you sometimes feel like everybody looks at you as like being condemned.”

“Being given the opportunity to — and being entrusted with a dog, to train and to work with other people, it makes you feel good, and it makes you see that you can be given another opportunity.”

Tyrell was convicted of larceny and is one of the chosen inmates to take part in the veteran program. He proudly wears his special white shirt, as do all the others involved in the program. He raises and mentors the adorable Clancy, who is just five-months-old. “It gives me confidence that everyone hasn’t given up on me,” Tyrell mentioned. “I hate the clich├ęs that are thrown around, but this truly is a win-win program for everybody involved.”
The special and remarkable program started as an experiment at a women’s prison in Massachusetts back in 2014, but currently, at least twelve prisons on the East Coast train more than ten dogs at any given moment. When the main ‘owners’ or handles of the service dogs are doing something else, ten other inmates are willing to step in at all times.
Joe Timbro, a correctional counselor at the Enfield prison, is convinced that the program changes lives.
“A lot of these guys don’t know how to process their emotions, or they’ve never had to care for something like a dog before, so this teaches them those skills,” he said.

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Source: WTNH News8

“(The dog) doesn’t care what that person did in the past,” Tyler adds. “He doesn’t make those judgments. He cares who they are today. Is he honest today? Is he trustworthy? Does he keep that puppy safe? I think because (the dog) doesn’t pass those judgments, that type of relationship is likely one that is very valued at a prison.”
The prison has a high rate of recidivism at 85 percent, but for those enrolled in the service dog program, it’s less than a quarter – a remarkable difference. Not all the dogs succeed in their test to become a service dog, but those that didn’t make the cut get training to be a police or customs dog.

One thing’s for sure: America’s VetDogs program truly has the power to change lives.

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Source: WTNH News8TODAY

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