Puppies heading to prison for service dog training

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STANLEY, Wis. (WEAU) -- They say dogs are a man's best friend, and soon eight puppies will befriend prison inmates at Stanley Correctional Institution.

The puppies are not going behind bars for committing crimes. They are there to gain the skills needed to go on to become service dogs through a program known as Can Do Canines.

“The prisoners will be doing the basic obedience training but there is also a skill set that the dogs will learn that they need that they need to go on to be a service dog,” canine prison program trainer Dyan Larson explained.

The eight puppies will stay at prison for the first 14 months of their lives, growing up and leering from the inmates. After their time in prison, the dogs go on to receive specialized training in Minnesota.

“We desperately need people to raise puppies to be able to become service dogs and we are getting that out of the prison,” Larson added.

Lori Patrouille is the warden's secretary at Stanley Prison, she says after announcing the dog training program at the prison, there has been a lot of excitement. She says inmates have already begun the application and interview process to help train the dogs.

“The inmates that have interviewed for the position have expressed that they are looking forward to doing something good and giving back,” Patrouille said.

While the puppies will be paired with inmates to train, they will also a break from the prison during the 14 months they spend with inmates and that's where the public can get involved.

The prison needs people to care for the dogs while they spend time away from prison, getting socialized to household living. For a few days each month, the puppies will be cared for by families in the surrounding community. The breaks are needed for the prison puppies and work on social skills, house manners and help socialize the puppies outside of the prison.

For more information on how you can help out, follow the link on the right-hand side of the screen.

A program that trains service dogs is about to send a new litter of puppies to the Stanley Correctional Institution.

The dogs will work extensively with prison inmates, who will help the puppies learn valuable assistance skills. They will enter the prison at about 12 weeks of age and live with specially selected inmates. They will provide daily training as the puppies grow. The dog is returned to Can Do Canines after 18 months for final training and is then placed with a client with a disability.

In order for the program to succeed, local volunteers are needed twice a month to provide "furloughs" for the prison puppies. They will also help the puppies work on social skills, house manners and socialization.

Other volunteers, like 17-year-old Marlena Boldon, serve as puppy raisers. She's raising her second assistance dog, Orin, a 7-month-old black lab.

"I had always had a love for dogs and training them, so a teacher told me I should go volunteer somewhere," Boldon explained.

She searched online for opportunities and came across the Can Do Canines program. A family member of Boldon's has autism and had worked with a service dog when he was younger, so it seemed a perfect fit.

"I'm teaching him (Orin) basic obedience, household manners, getting him used to going out in public, things like that," Boldon said.

Once Orin trains with her for a year and a half, he will go back to Can Do Canines to be tested for the areas of service it offers. They include autism assist, seizure assist, hearing assist, diabetes assist and mobility assist.

He will be placed in whichever area he is most comfortable with and best suited to.

If you are interested in learning more about the program or becoming a Can Do Canines volunteer, it is holding a "Tails to Tell" information session Wednesday, Jan. 27 at the Stanley-Boyd High School Library on E. First Ave.

The session runs from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

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