Puppies Behind Bars
Meet her new dog, Sadie!
Still, dogs are more than just companions. They can be the eyes for those who can't see, lead those who can't walk and calm people suffering from conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.
Where do these service dogs get their start? For some, it all begins behind prison walls...
Now, a groundbreaking program called Puppies Behind Bars is transforming these offenders. Inmates are given 8-week-old puppies and taught to train them to become service dogs for the disabled, including wounded soldiers. The puppies and prisoners are together 24 hours a day. The puppies sleep in crates in the inmates' cells.
Go inside a training session.
In return, the puppies give the prisoners something many of them have never experienced before—unconditional love. "I'm going to make my family and those around me proud of me again. Joining this program, it helped me to give myself a sense of pride again. To know that by nurturing and raising these dogs to their fullest potential, that I could give back."
"We know the bond that can be created between humans and animals. And there is common knowledge that it's a healing quality," she says. "The bond that's created between inmates—who never knew love, never knew responsibility, have only been told that they're worthless—and the bond that they then train their dogs to establish with these wounded returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan is changing their lives."
Roberto was chosen for Puppies Behind Bars and immediately bonded with his yellow lab, Frankie. "From the moment I got her, it was amazing," he says. "There was some beautiful moments in here that I shared with my puppy."
Eventually, Frankie had to move on—and Roberto had to say goodbye. "The first night I was without Frankie, I have to say it was a long night," he says. "It was hard for me to realize that the next morning I was going to wake up and not actually feed her that morning."
After a few months together, Sgt. Hill and Frankie return to Fishkill to meet Roberto. When Frankie sees Roberto, she takes off running. "She looks beautiful," Roberto says.
Roberto is moved. "This is an overwhelming feeling, and to see you is breathtaking," he says. "And to see what Frankie had done in your life."
Now paroled, Roberto is expected to be released from prison this summer, but what he learned from Puppies Behind Bars will stay with him forever. "Being able to be involved in the puppy program has taught me to be a responsible person," he says. "It has taught me patience."
Gina says she's starting to see her husband's playful, energetic side come through once again. "We're starting to see that side of him again that we haven't seen in the year and a half he's been home from Iraq," she says. "Frankie has brought my sons their daddy home. She has lit the light back in him that had been so dark."
Watch an emotional Puppies Behind Bars reunion.
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