Carl Rotans, Senior Instructor of Puppies behind Bars, teaches inmates to train service dogs. These unique dogs greatly assist the disabled, especially veterans, in a multitude of ways: taking dishes from the table, dialing 911 if necessary, turning lights on or off. The dogs are trained to respond to more than 90 commands. In this heavily monitored program, inmates are prescreened, go through a long and intensive selective process, and if selected, live day and night with their 8-week-old puppy as it grows and learns for the next two years. The process not only results in trained animals that improve the lives of their disabled owners, but also helps the prisoners learn disciple and other skills that will be helpful when they return to life outside the prison walls. Parting is “bittersweet,” with many inmates opting for a new puppy when the first training period ends.
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