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Local program pairs puppies 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 every day. Some of this work is done by Lenawee County inmates.

Assistance Dogs is a program of The Ability Center. After a hiatus during the pandemic, the centre’s partnership with the prison is back in operation.

Ten service dogs arrived at Adrian’s Gus Harrison Correctional Facility on Tuesday for four months of training. What happens inside prison walls will change many lives. The dogs met their owners for the first time on Tuesday afternoon. The impact the dogs will have in this building and beyond quickly became clear.

Guylynn Rubin grew up with dogs. He says his family dog ​​has brought a lot of comfort to his brother who has cerebral palsy. Guylynn enjoys being able to bond with dogs even when behind bars.

“It’s therapy for all of us. It’s giving back to the community the best possible way to be incarcerated,” Rubin said. “I’ve been here since last May and I have nine years left. It’s very good for me. It makes you happy and brings you joy knowing that what you are doing will help someone else. I trained another dog for a veteran, and it was very rewarding.

Guylynn will be working with a pup named Morgan.

“It’s very rewarding work. It’s a stress reliever to be able to have a dog, pet it, get to know a dog, and train it to help others. It is good for the soul.

Alex Adamowicz was assigned to work with a dog named Flynn.

“It’s one of the ultimate ways to spend your time being productive here,” Adamowicz said. “It’s not just for you, but for someone in society who needs such help. I also just got a best friend. It’s a chance to give back and finally feel like we could contribute. »

Alex says his world was changed by Flynn on Tuesday and he’ll work hard to make sure Flynn does it for someone else too.

“Being 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 wimps when a dog comes along.

The dogs live with the inmates and spend hours training each day. They start with simple commands and move on to more advanced tasks.

Stacie Baumbarger is the Ability Center’s Service Dog Program Director.

“We start with simple things like teaching dogs which side to be on,” Stacie said. “We also focus on recovery at the start of training because the dogs are going to pick up a lot. We also focus on loose leash walking. Its very important. Some of these inmates have worked with the program before. We work on all the things that take the most time to train and are the most difficult because inmates are basically able to work with them around the clock.”

Stacie says each dog has two handlers who share training responsibilities.

“Everything they do, they have to do together. It creates more teamwork and better communication,” Stacie said. “I hope it will also improve their life skills.”

Guylynn and the other inmates say things got better as soon as the dogs arrived.

“Can a dog change a man? Absolutely, that softens it up a bit!

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