Monroe prison inmates help train service dogs

MONROE, Wash. -- A pack of dogs earned their training diplomas Wednesday with the help of inmates doing hard time. A group of prisoners at Monroe work with the dogs that will soon become service animals.

"After being in prison 21 years, you get to wake up in the morning and the first thing you got is a four-legged furry dog breathing down your neck wanting some attention," said Darin Dodge, inmate and dog trainer.

The men behind bars who volunteered for the program quickly realized the benefit of what they were doing.

"Knowing that these dogs are going to help people that are handicapped... that probably have a lot more bad days than even the worst circumstance a guy can have in prison," Dodge said.

Alex Stone benefited from the prison program, run by Summit Assistance Dogs. He adopted Frazier in 2006, and they go everywhere together.

"He enabled me to independently travel to Africa for four and a half months," Stone said. "We just got back. He was there by my side to pick up everything that I dropped; to carry things for me."

Seven dogs wrapped up another nine-week course of learning commands and coordination to become service animals. Four of the dogs graduating Wednesday will now go on to more advanced training.

They'll stay at the prison for the next two weeks or so, before hopefully finding some new, permanent homes in late summer or early fall.

For the inmates in the program, it will be a sad day when they say goodbye to canines that became good friends.

"It's hard," said Marvin Chapman, inmate and dog trainer. "Because when we first get the dogs they tell us, 'These are not your pets. Tese are working animals. These are service dogs. They're going out to other people."'

Some of the dogs will stay at the prison for a new round of training as a few new dogs move in.
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