BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) — A group of inmates at the Jackson Correctional Institution is giving back to the community by raising service dogs for the Minneapolis-based organization Can Do Canines.
Ten puppies, all four months old and from the same litter of black Lab and Golden Retriever mixes checked into prison for a new adventure.The organization already works with several prisons across Wisconsin and Minnesota, but Tuesday marked the start of the program in Jackson County.
The inmates will spend the next year raising the puppies and teaching them basic obedience commands.
Can Do Canines says it has found success with its prison training program.
“They do take tremendous pride in the training of the dog,” said Dyan Larson, Prison Program Instructor for Can Do Canines. “So in a regular obedience class most people are like ‘oh I didn’t have time to teach my dog to sit this week,’ and the inmates are like ‘show me sit’ and the dog runs and does your laundry and cooks you breakfast and comes back and sits. You know they do such a great job.”
After about 12 months, the dogs will go back to Can Do Canines for another six months of intense training to learn how to help specific kinds of disabilities like diabetes or seizures.
And after a year of bonding, it’s not easy for inmates to give them back.
“They cry. They do cry,” said Larson.
But it also helps the prisons.
“I think it opens up a very different facet of rehabilitation for our offenders,” said Lizzie Tegels, Warden of the Jackson Correctional Institution. “It really gives the offenders, those that are working with the dogs, the opportunity to have a daily responsibility. This dog relies on them and they are committed to the dog.”
Inmate Christopher Wilbanks was excited to meet his new puppy, Peggy.
“I think she’s a very excited little girl,” he said. “I love her. I like her coat too.”
For him, raising a puppy was a way to make a positive difference.
“I’ve done some wrong things in my life and I want to help as much as I can as I’m in here,” Wilbanks said.
Can Do Canines is still looking for a few more volunteers to take these puppies out for the weekend to socialize them and introduce them to things they wouldn’t normally see in the prison.
The organization has a waiting list of 170 people hoping to receive a service dog at no cost.