Service dogs have proven to be helpful to disabled soldiers as well as those suffering from traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Several programs have sprung up across the country enlisting the help of inmates to train the dogs, and now one Maryland institute is turning to incarcerated veterans to help out their fellow servicemembers, reports The Associated Press.
The program is operated out of Western Correctional Institute and uses canines provided by New York-based America's VetDogs. Aside from a twice-weekly visit from a trainer, the inmates are largely left alone to work with the dogs on obedience and tasks such as turning on lights and picking up objects. Only the most trusted inmates are allowed to train the dogs, and by most accounts the program has been a big success.
"We’re putting them [dogs] through some very stringent training – 90 percent of their time is training – so it gives me great joy just [to] see them romp and roll around and be puppies," Hazard Wilson, a former military police officer, told the AP.
Whatever the method of training is, it is clear that therapy dogs play a vital role in helping wounded warriors. However, despite considerable anecdotal evidence, the Department of Veterans Affairs recently paused a study analyzing the benefits service dogs offer vets with PTSD, CNN reports.