The Prison PUP Partnership, from a Client’s Perspective — By Brenda Bodanza

Brenda, with Liberty, at a fundraiser for the Prison PUP Partnership: "To do a fundraiser for NEADS/Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans is a way I can give back for the blessing they have given to me with Liberty, my service dog!"

It takes a multitude of people committed to providing unconditional love and dedication to train a service dog, including breeders, weekend puppy raisers, sponsors, trainers and inmate handlers in the Prison PUP Partnership. I feel if it weren’t for the Prison Pup Partnership, clients wouldn’t be able to receive their furry canine aides as quickly as they do.

My own personal experience of receiving my service dog Liberty — and having the opportunity to witness firsthand where she was trained — was an opportunity I will never forget. In April 2010, I ventured to JJMoran Medium Prison in Rhode Island to meet the inmate handler that gave his heart to this furry little lady.

I observed four immate handlers, as they displayed their pride (like a parent showing off their child). They had the dogs run through their tasks, showing us the added specialties each dogs was trained to do.

Of course Liberty’s handler had my eye, as I watched him demonstrate with Liberty her abilities to open a door, take out a blanket, close the door and come put it on my lap. I watched her flush the toilet and put her paws in the sink to wash, and then to my amazement, her handler held up cue cards that stated commands and with out any words, Liberty performed each and every one of them with a bow at the end. She can also turn lights on and off, open and close the door, retrieve items dropped on the floor, bark for help, and many other things. And all this time I was watching this man glow, as he beamed for the unselfish tasks he had prepared for me through Liberty.

I truly feel regardless of the crimes that took place in these inmate handlers’ lives, it is God’s given work to be able to look past these mistakes and appreciate, as well as acknowledge, what these handlers have done for us. Training these pups is never an easy task. It is constant dedication, loyalty, perseverence and commitment. I totally feel the Prison Pup Partnership is the added foundation of NEADS.

Brenda, with Liberty: "Fundraising for NEADS is the least I can do for the impact these handlers have made on my own life!"

I had the pleasure of listening to the Deputy share his pride about the benefits of the NEADS Prison PUP Partnership, as well as his pride for what the handlers do. The prison staff and inmate handlers work together with much admiration for this outstanding program. This is such a demonstration of how everyone is united for the mission of NEADS. Everyone’s common interest is in the making of the service dogs.

I have had the utmost pleasure of meeting prison staff members from the Gardner and Shirley Prisons, with whom NEADS is also partnered, and heard their enthusiasm over the Prison Pup Program as well. I listened to their admiration regarding the great job these inmate handlers do.

It is so rewarding to hear so much positive feedback about the Prison PUP Partnership, where one can put aside any personal judgment about the inmates and instead focus on the commitment and talent within those prison walls. One never excuses the crimes that brought the inmate handlers to prison, but the Prison PUP Partnership program offers these inmates the opportunity to nurture, to be compassionate, to be a part of humanity with a goal in mind…the making of a service dog! So I applaud these handlers for what they do for the displaced veterans and disabled humans like me!

I have great pride in the Prison Pup Partnership for I have seen firsthand God’s amazing plan through this program — it is more than inmate handlers giving back to society, it is teaching that everyone involved can come together as a unit to support and encourage each other, and acknowledge that we all are human and can learn from one another!

What is the Prison PUP Partnership?
90-95% of NEADS puppies are trained in correctional facilities throughout New England. NEADS began the Prison PUP Partnership in 1998 at North Central Correctional Center in Gardner, Massachusetts. Since then, we’ve added more than a dozen additional participating prisons to our partnership. Our statistics show that dogs trained by prison inmates complete the additional required advanced training in half the time of most dogs raised exclusively in foster homes. Inmates are able to provide more consistent training at a higher level simply because of the amount of time they are able to devote to the dogs. This enables us to place dogs faster with people in need.

2 thoughts on “The Prison PUP Partnership, from a Client’s Perspective — By Brenda Bodanza

  1. Brenda, again fantastic article! It is amazing that the inmates’ training is the “link ‘ that expedites the training time so that the dogs can be placed faster with their partner. This is remarkable!

  2. nice job young lady…you have come a long way in your ability to use your words to express so much…a writer you might be …..thanks for the eye opener….I will definitely send this along…love deb

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