The great thing in this world is not so much where we are but in what direction we are moving. Therefore you will be told that the circumstances you are going through do not define you; you can always change for the better. Those who end up behind bars might feel like their life has taken a turn for the worse, but it is not necessarily so. A service dog who was trained in prison impacts inmates and veteran’s lives in ways they never imagined possible. Let’s check out the story of Kevin, the wonder dog, and his effect on those he meets.
How Kevin met his trainer
In 2012, America’s Vetdogs collaborated with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to come with a program focusing on restorative justice. The program entails inmates training future services dogs until they are ready for pairing. At only 17, Herbert Wilson-Bey found himself in prison where he is serving a sentence after being found guilty of murder and robbery. At the time of his arrest, Hebert had a three-month-old son, so, unfortunately, he has not seen him grow up.
However, life is full of second chances, and since he could not raise his son, Hebert decided to join the program in 2013 and raise a puppy instead. So Herbert took in a 6-week-old puppy to train him, thinking that the training was all about giving him commands. With time, Herbert understood that even animals have emotions, so he also showed Kevin lots of love. One trick Herbert learned was to put the puppy on his chest and allow it to lick his face. Herbert stayed with Kevin until he was a little over a year old when he became ready for the next phase of his life.
To Herbert, the chance to train was a golden opportunity to be responsible since it was the first real job he ever had. Indeed it was a task since inmates stay with the dogs from Monday to Friday. The dogs are then released to volunteers during the weekend to let them know there is a life beyond the prison walls. The pride that 44-year-old Herbert feels for his accomplishment can only be told by the dog-paw emblem chained to the necklace that he hangs around his neck.
How Kevin turned the life of his veteran around
After spending 30 years in the Marine Corps, Al Moore’s body was damaged both physically and mentally. In 27 years, he has undergone 19 surgeries, and not only did he endure physical pain, but the post-traumatic stress disorder was too much for him that he started taking medication. Still, you cannot rely on drugs all your life, so when Kevin was paired with Moore in April, Moore began to wean himself off the drugs. The move has been successful, and about a month and a half ago, Moore stopped taking the last dose.
However, it is not just with the medication that Kevin has helped Moore. He offers both physical and emotional support. When Moore had his 18th surgery in July, Kevin was there with him, lying next to him, reassuring Moore that he was there for him no matter what. Whenever Moore has nightmares, Kevin wakes him up to calm him down, and if Moore is dizzy when climbing the stairs, Kevin helps to keep him steady. Additionally, Kevin is the first to switch on the lights whenever Moore walks into a room, and while in the past, Moore could not go to public places without his wife, he now is comfortable running errands with Kevin.
When Moore addressed the inmates at Western Correctional Institution, where Herbert trained Kevin, he admitted that Kevin saved his and his family’s lives. Moore could not help but thank the inmates who had enabled him to get the wonder dog, a nickname that Kevin got because he is always wondering how to help others.
The first dog training program
According to Olvania Online, the first dog training program was started in 1981 by Sister Pauline Quinn. Sister Pauline had a tough childhood, and by the age of 13, she was living in Los Angeles streets until the authorities found her and placed her in adult psychiatric wards. Sister Pauline’s life in the wards was no better since they were chained to beds, abused, and tortured. She had had enough and wanted God to change her life for the better, and in return, she would serve others.
When Sister Pauline was released, she wound up in the streets and found a stray dog, Joni, to keep her company. Joni gave Sister Pauline an unconditional love that she believed would help benefit others. Consequently, Sister Pauline started a prison-based dog training program, Pathways to Hope. She set a good example, and today, there are more than 250 prison-based dog training programs in the United States. The programs operate in all facilities, from minimum to maximum across all levels.
How does taking care of animals help inmates?
Animal therapy dates back to 1975 according to Taste of the Wild when an inmate found an injured bird. With time, taking care of the bird improved the inmates so much that they needed less medication and became less violent. As a result, an animal therapy program was initiated by the staff.
Being entrusted with animals also has its checklist, just like taking care of a child. Inmates usually should have a good record, with no history of sexual assault or violence. Dogs give unconditional love, and when the inmates get that they are not being judged for whatever they did, they learn to be trusting. Consequently, they become more social as well as less depressed and anxious, which in turn reduces the need for medication. Additionally, according to experts, inmates who have trained service dogs are less likely to end up in jail again since they become more disciplined.