ECI Inmates Train Future Service Dogs For Wounded Vets - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

ECI Inmates Train Future Service Dogs For Wounded Vets

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WESTOVER, Md. - Speak, leash, push, rest and under -- not the typical commands to teach your dog.

But puppies at Eastern Correctional Institute in Westover, Md. have a higher calling. Taking the meaning of man's best friend to a whole new level, they're training to be future service dogs for disabled veterans, at the hands of prisoners.

"We're able to train dogs for our needy veterans in much quicker time than if they were raised outside a correctional facility. Why? Because we're structured, disciplined," ECI Warden Kathleen Green said.

Through America's VetDogs program, inmates train the dogs to turn off light switches, open and close doors, and move around wheelchairs and crutches. The dogs come to prison as puppies. They're taught tricks that are specially designed to help wounded warriors in everyday life.

Eastern Correctional Institute Inmate Shane Pardoe has been training Argus, a black Labrador, for the past 10 months.

"You feel productive in an environment where that's hard to achieve. I think the experience we all have is that we're capable of a lot more, and we're capable of doing good even under the worst circumstances. It just means the world to be able to give back in some kind of way. Especially since we all owe a debt to society for our crimes and the victims involved," he said.

Gary Miller is a Vietnam war veteran. His pup, Galaxie has given him the opportunity to serve his country once again.

"When I came into the program, I was still resentful of a lot of things. I've been in prison a long time. He's changed me – made me more mellow, more easy to get along with, easier to talk to people too because I talk to him all the time. He's even got me to a point where I want to get back in shape so I can raise more like him," he said.

Giving inmates a sense of purpose and wounded veterans a renewed sense of independence.

But the only way for these dogs to graduate from prison to the home of a deserving veteran, they need your help. The program is looking for volunteers to take the puppies home on weekends, exposing them to the outside world.

For more information on being a weekend puppy raiser, call 410-845-4091. To learn more about the America's VetDogs program, visit


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