Local program pairs pups and prisoners to provide service and therapy dogs
TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Training a service or therapy dog is a major undertaking that requires hours of work on a daily basis. Some of that work is being done by inmates in Lenawee County.
Assistance Dogs is a program of The Ability Center. After a break during the pandemic, the center’s partnership with the prison is back up and running.
Ten assistance dogs arrived at the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian Tuesday for four months of training. What happens inside the prison walls will transform a lot of lives. The dogs met their handlers for the first time Tuesday afternoon. It was quickly clear the impact the dogs will have in this building and beyond.
Guylynn Rubin grew up with dogs. He says his family’s dog brought a lot of comfort to his brother with cerebral palsy. Guylynn loves being able to have a bond with dogs even while he’s behind bars.
“It’s therapy for all of us. It’s giving back to the community the best way we can for being incarcerated,” Rubin said. “I’ve been here since last May, and I have nine years to go. This is very good for me. It makes you happy and brings you joy to know that what you are doing will help someone else. I trained another dog for a veteran, and that was very rewarding.”
Guylynn will be working with a puppy named Morgan.
“It’s very gratifying work. It’s a stress reliever to be able to have a dog, pet a dog, get to know a dog and train them to help others. It does the soul good.”
Alex Adamowicz was assigned to work with a dog named Flynn.
“This is one of the ultimate ways to spend your time to be productive here,” Adamowicz said. “It’s not only for yourself, but for someone in society in need of such assistance. I also just got a best friend. This is a chance to give back and finally feel like we might be contributing.”
Alex says his world was changed by Flynn Tuesday and he’ll work hard to make sure Flynn does that for someone else too.
“To be able to change someone’s life when you’re in a place like this, is life-changing for me. We’re all a bunch of softies when a dog comes around.”
The dogs live with the inmates and spend hours training every day. They start with simple commands and work up to more advanced tasks.
Stacie Baumbarger is the Director of The Ability Center’s Assistance Dogs program.
“We start with simple things like teaching the dogs which side to be on,” Stacie said. “We also focus on retrieving early in the training, because the dogs will be picking a lot of things up. We also focus on loose leash walking. That is very important. Some of these inmates have worked with the program before. We work on all the things that take the longest to train and are most difficult because the inmates are basically able to work with them around-the-clock.”
Stacie says each dog has two handlers that share training responsibilities.
“Everything they do, they have to do together. That creates more teamwork and better communication,” Stacie said. “Hopefully, it will improve their life skills as well.”
Guylynn and the other inmates say things improved the moment the dogs arrived.
“Can a dog change a man? Absolutely, it softens him a little bit!”
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