Jackson Correctional Institution highlights program during Assistance Dog Week

Those with disabilities sometimes need an extra hand to live a fulfilling life. That extra hand may come in the form of a paw.

Service dogs play a vital role in their lives and this week Governor Scott Walker proclaimed it as Assistance Dog Week.

Inmates at the the Jackson Correctional Institution lend a hand in training dogs for this purpose. Training his second dog in the program, Chris says his new dog, Flirt, picks up on the commands a little faster.

"She was smart, but not as smart," Chris said. "Training Flirt’s like training a teenager that’s ready to buckle down and take their SAT."

It could also be the trainers are more experienced this time around. Prison program instructor Dyan Larson believes that comes as the inmates grow themselves.

"They are emotionally growing," Larson said. "They’re learning things like patience. They’re working with people they never would have worked with before."

The program started just over a year ago hoping to make that kind of impact. The results continue to show.

"I had one individual telling me that given the nature of his crime and what he’s taken from the community, this is really the first thing that has helped to make him feel like there’s hope for him," Warden Lizzie Tegels said.

A testament many inmates share. Dog training programs operate at a number of institutions across the state. The training the dogs receive helps get them ready for assisting someone in need. Officials feel it’s important piece to Can Do Canine.

"The prison programs, as far as I’m concerned, an absolute must for any service dog organization," Larson added.

The responsibility can turn into a passion and impact them to holding off even getting closer to going home.

"I gave up minimum to stay here for another year to do the program and that’s a huge step," Chris explained.

A move the warden admires.

"The fact that inmates put this dog ahead of their own needs or their own benefits truly shows how beneficial this program is," Tegels finished.

The dogs trained by the inmates went to help veterans with PTSD, elderly with mobility issues and individuals with varied medical or mental health issues.

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