Weekend puppy raisers wanted for ECI’s service dog program

SOMERSET CO., Md. – Everyday, behind the bars of an Eastern Correctional Institution, something incredible is happening.

Inmates are learning love and compassion through the institution’s puppy program.

Kellyn Layton, a Prison Puppy Advisor said, “The dogs are here Monday through Friday, all the inmates train the dogs.”

Here’s how it works: Inmates spend a year to a year and a half training the pups to be service dogs, then they’re re-homed to veterans in need.

Layton said, “They’re able to support people that deserve the support, they bring back the independence that they need.”

By working hand in hand with the pups, these inmates learn compassion, communication and honesty.

Layton said, “They become men when they, sometimes they’re in here and they’re little boys that made stupid mistakes they become grown men that have a heart.”

This begs the question: who is training who?

Lt. PJ Stephenson, an officer at ECI said, “I’ve seen children become men in this program.”

But here’s the thing, these pups need real world experience.

Lt. Stephenson said, “The inmates, they’re confined in this facility so they cant take the dogs to a movie theater, to a kids soccer game.”

So the prison is looking for people to take home the dogs on the weekend.

Layton said, “We need people that are willing to give at least a year to a year and a half of their time.”

Julia Glanz has been a weekend puppy raiser for years.

Glanz said, “There’s definitely work, but the inmates do a ton of the lift.”

Since the inmates are able to dedicate so much time to training the pups, they’re well behaved at an early age, making them the perfect pup for anyone looking for a temporary, but well-trained dog.

Lt. Stephenson said, “You’re getting a very pretty much trained dog that you’re having only on the weekends.”

The more puppy raisers, the more dogs the prison can take in, which is a good thing because for these men the road to freedom is paved with paw-prints.

If you’re thinking about being a weekend puppy raiser there are some things you should know, they are looking for people that can meet at least once a month for a class to go over anything new the dog has learned or any problems the dog may have.

They also don’t want anyone who has more than two dogs, or anyone with children under the age of six simply because toddlers aren’t as firm when it comes to enforcing rules as others are.

If you are interested in taking part in the puppy program, you are asked to call Lieutenant PJ Stephenson at his work phone: 410-845-4091 or you can visit www.vetdogs.org.

Categories: Local News, Maryland, Pets