At the massive Greensville Correctional Center in rural southern Virginia, a group of seven “lifer” inmates took on the task of rescuing and training their very own shelter dog. Handlers and dogs worked together towards becoming a Therapy Dogs International, therapy dog team.
The inmates and canines have already been actively participating in a variety of therapeutic activities throughout the prison. The teams respond to requests and appointments, as well as spontaneous meetings with inmates and staff who enjoy visiting with the well-known dogs.
After months of hard work, handlers and dogs decided to make their role official beyond the recognition of the prison. Teams demonstrated before TDI Evaluator Lisa Rapacki the therapeutic skills they had spent years learning and practicing.
After watching the teams work and interact with fellow inmates, staff and hospital patients, it became clear that they had indeed earned the right to be the first ever credentialed inmate-canine teams.
While the much deserved recognition will likely not change the teams’ daily activities, it serves as a sweet reminder that surprising firsts can still occur even for those who spend their lives behind fences and walls.