Missouri River inmates teaching service dogs through Canine Assistance Program

Published: Nov. 26, 2019 at 9:44 PM CST
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Inmates at the Missouri River Correctional Center are learning all about service and man's best friend.

DJ and Leland were donated to the Correctional Center through the Service Dogs for America Program.

The Inmate Canine Assistance Program takes in the dogs for a short amount of time to train them to be service animals.

A full time responsibility, for a short-term resident.

"These guys have a very short stay, they're here for socialization," said Mandi Tipton, an addiction Counselor at the MRCC.

A group of six inmates share time caring and training the dogs for their next big move.

"It makes me feel like I’m doing something useful, like yeah I’m in prison but at least I have a meaning to it,” said Mathew Fennell, a dog handler.

Each inmate impacted by the friendship.

"It means a lot, it takes away missing your own pup," said Ross Thomas, a dog handler.

And taught a greater responsibility.

“I've made a lot of selfish lifestyle decision that have gotten me here, so just being able to give back gives me a new outlook on life," said David Gunderson, a dog handler.

Coordinators hope to mimic a real-world job through the program.

"I see the frustrations. I see the working through it. It is character building. I see them building off the good qualities they already have," said Tipton.

But all good things must come to end, soon these dogs will serve a greater need in the world.

"As I've already experienced, one of the hardest parts is parting ways with the dog," said Fennell.

With every sit, and stay the dogs are learning but also teaching those close by.

DJ and Leland are only staying at the Correctional Center for 10-days, but the inmates are looking forward to the next service dogs they will get to train.

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