Jazzy Graduates from PrisonShe isn’t your typical one-year old. She sleeps through the night, listens well, and does exactly what you tell her to do. She enjoys helping others and hasn’t met anyone she doesn’t like. In October, she graduated with honors. Jazzy, a black Labrador Retriever, is the first graduate in the new Prison Puppy Training Program between Assistance Dogs of America, Inc. (ADAI) and the Toledo Correctional Institution (ToCI).
Jazzy completed a year of training learning basic commands that she will use when she becomes a full-fledged assistance dog. After graduating, Jazzy was placed with Megan Barett, an ADAI foster volunteer, for another year of advanced training. Jazzy is one of six dogs that have been part of the Prison Puppy Training Program since January 2006.
“The dogs adapted very well to prison life,” says Myndi Milliken, ADAI’s prison puppy coordinator. “The inmates take their jobs very seriously and the dogs are quite advanced in their skills.”
Linda Meeks, school administrator at ToCI, says she was unsure what to expect when the program first started. “I’m very impressed with how well ADAI coordinates the program,” she says. “I’m also pleased with how the inmates have bonded. It’s a very cohesive group that looks out for one another and their dogs.”
Each of the dogs live with their inmate trainers for 24 hours a day, sharing a cell with them and accompanying their trainers almost everywhere. ADAI staff members work with the inmates and their dog in training sessions twice a week. During their first year of training, the dogs learn basic commands like sit, come, down, stay, watch, and leave it.
The puppies are “furloughed” for one week each month, living with an ADAI volunteer. The furloughs give the dogs exposure to “outside” activities such as family life, public outings, and sensory experiences they do not have in the prison environment.
The first year of the Prison Puppy Training Program was funded by the Toledo Community and Stranahan Foundation.
ADAI and ToCI are in the process of selecting three more inmates to become trainers. ADAI is always in need of healthy puppies from quality breeders. It currently needs 8 puppies to begin a new training session in January. Breeders who are interested in donating a puppy to Assistance Dogs of America, Inc. may contact the organization at 419-825-3622.