Jail in­mates bat­tling ad­dic­tion get help from un­likely al­lies: pup­pies

Houston Chronicle - - NEWSMAKERS - By Michael Casey

BOSCAWEN, N.H. — Caitlin Hy­land’s jail cell here looks like those of many of her fel­low in­mates, fea­tur­ing fam­ily pho­tos, a few books and a cot. But one thing sets it apart: the cage on the floor for a 10-week-old puppy.

Hy­land, a 28-year-old from Con­cord, N.H., who is serv­ing time for a drug con­vic­tion, is one of four in­mates at the Mer­ri­mack County Jail who are train­ing pup­pies. In a part­ner­ship be­tween a group called Hero Pups and the jail, two male and two fe­male in­mates, who are all in the jail’s drug treat­ment pro­gram, will raise the pup­pies for the next two months. They will even­tu­ally be handed over to mil­i­tary vet­er­ans and first re­spon­ders who are strug­gling with post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der and other chal­lenges.

“It feels like a sec­ond chance,” Hy­land said of be­ing cho­sen to raise the choco­late Labrador re­triever mix puppy. She must feed the dog three times a day and walk it ev­ery two hours for 20 min­utes. And she is giv­ing it obe­di­ence train­ing. The dog stays with her around the clock.

“It’s just amaz­ing to have that un­con­di­tional love,” she con­tin­ued. “I am learn­ing so much about find­ing the bal­ance. You have to love your­self be­fore you can ap­pre­ci­ate the love some­thing else is giv­ing you.”

Justin Martin, an­other in­mate, says his dog has given him a sense of pur­pose. “Know­ing he is go­ing on to help some­one else is to­tally huge for me,” said Martin, 33, of Barn­stead. “With me and my so­bri­ety and re­cov­ery, it’s just re­ally a life-changer. He is re­ally chang­ing two lives.”

The pro­gram is the first of its kind in New Hamp­shire but mir­rors sim­i­lar pro­grams around the coun­try in which in­mates raise and care for an­i­mals, typ­i­cally dogs.

NEADS World Class Ser­vice Dogs works with in­mates at seven fa­cil­i­ties in Mas­sachusetts and Rhode Is­land to train ser­vice dogs, while Leader Dogs For the Blind works with pris­ons in Min­nesota, Iowa and Michi­gan in rais­ing pup­pies that even­tu­ally be­come guide dogs for peo­ple who are blind. At one pro­gram at the Erie County Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity in New York, in­mates raise pheas­ant chicks that are then re­leased into the wild.

The ar­rival of the pup­pies at the jail’s min­i­mum se­cu­rity unit re­cently has re­ver­ber­ated well be­yond the four in­mates who care for them. On any given day, all 30 in­mates in the unit have an op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with the dogs. The an­i­mals pranc­ing about, snooz­ing or yelp­ing of­fer a sense of nor­malcy in a fa­cil­ity that often feels cold and tense, in­mates said.

“It has had a pos­i­tive im­pact. When I look on se­cu­rity cam­eras, I see pup­pies run­ning around,” said Kara Wy­man, as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of the Mer­ri­mack County Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions. “That lifts the staff.”

Elise Amendola / As­so­ci­ated Press

In­mate Jonathan Lad­son cud­dles with a choco­late Labrador re­triever puppy at Mer­ri­mack County Jail in Boscawen, N.H. In the jail’s part­ner­ship with a group called Hero Pups, in­mates raise and train pup­pies.

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