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Pax the Dog

Prison Pups

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[♪guitar music♪] [The New York Times, N.Y. Region] [Prison Pups by Brent McDonald & Joseph Berger June 1, 2008] [off-camera speaker] Today, we're going to the store. Jamie and her dog, Devon, are going to buy breakfast. [Narrator] The women inmates at Bedford Hills Maximum Security Prison have an unusual reward for good behavior. They receive puppies, which they train to be service dogs for the handicapped. The program, called Puppies Behind Bars, provides these dogs free of charge to people with physical or psychological disabilities. Yes, good boy! [applause] [Gloria Gilbert Stoga, Director, Puppies Behind Bars] Puppies Behind Bars' purpose is to get more working dogs into the hands of people who need them. We use prison inmates to do that because people always say they've got time on their hands. Yes, they have time on their hands, but, more importantly, they, I feel, have the obligation to repay society. Look. Yes, good girl. [Narrator] The puppies, mostly golden and Labrador retrievers, learn dozens of commands and complex tasks, such as loading groceries. That's it. Yes, good boy. [Narrator] Sitting under tables and switching on lights. [off-camera speaker] Yes, good. Light. Yes, good boy. Good. Light. [Narrator] For the participants, it's a chance to do a good deed and receive unconditional live in return. Laurie Kellog is now training her third dog in the program. She is serving 25 years to life in connection with the murder of her husband, who she says abused her for years. [L.K.] You'd be amazed at how happy some of the women are just to see one of these puppies do a command or two. They may catch a sight of one of these pups once a week or something and it makes their entire week for them. [laughter] [Narrator] The puppies have typically gone to serve autistic children and the blind, but increasingly, now, they're being sought out by soldiers suffering the psychological wounds of war. This is Pax, the first puppy I raised for Puppies Behind Bars. He's also the first puppy to be given to a vet who's come back from Iraq with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He's the first of our Dog Tags Program puppies. His name means 'peace' in Latin. Pax, come on. Load. [Narrator] In February, Pax was sent to live with Bill Campbell, an Iraq War veteran who struggled with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. He was injured in 2004 when a car bomb exploded near his post in Baghdad. [B.C.] Pax helps me to get outside and helps me to get over the fear of being outside, because when you take Pax out into public, you end up focusing on Pax. You can't worry about what's going on around you when you're focusing on Pax. Pax is a magnet for people. It's a good thing that I talk to people, even though I don't want to talk to people. Yeah, it's a psychological service dog. Psychological service dog? >> Uh-hunh (affirmative). [Narrator] Where Bill goes, Pax follows. He guards Bill's back in public, doesn't bark unless told, and comforts Bill when he's stressed. I have nightmares and things like that, and so when I wake up from nightmares and stuff like that, I can look over and look at him right off the bat. If he's not reacting to anything, then I know that whatever I experienced is not real. This is the purple heart that I received November 9, 2004. [L.K.] I've never met Bill Campbell, but I feel a connection to him. I have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, myself, because of domestic violence, so it's a very small comparison to what Bill's been through, but I can identify with some of the things that he has to deal with on a daily basis. What I've done is pour a year's worth of love into this puppy, who in turn is going to give a lifetime of love to Bill and his wife. Pax gave me some opportunities to grow and get stronger and deal with some of my PTSD issues. And in turn, he's learned how to help Bill deal with some of his on a daily basis. [G.S.] The inmates are emotionally wounded, the people that dogs go to, in the case of the soldiers with PTSD, are emotionally wounded, and I'm seeing a different level of healing in relationship than I had ever seen before between man and dog. Probably 90 percent of our dogs will end up with soldiers, is my guess, as the years go on and on. Everybody wanted to have their picture taken wtih Pax. Pax gave me freedom. He made me feel normal and alive again. He gave me freedom inside these--prison isn't the fences, it isn't the bars or the walls. It's what you build up around yourself in here and in here. Bill's still in a type of prison, and Pax gave me freedom in one kind of prison. I'm hoping he can give Bill freedom within his prison. Maybe help him find a way out of that prison. [The New York Times Videography Andy Schocken for The New York Times]

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The powerful story of Pax, an amazing yellow labrador trained by an inmate at Bedford Correctional Facility to help Iraq vet Bill Campbell transform his life.

See related video — when Bill Campbell and Laura Kellogg meet.

Transcript of this video.


© Trillium Productions. Used with permission. Third-party use prohibited. For related information, see Bring Change to Mind and Puppies Behind Bars.

See related video  — when Bill Campbell and Laura Kellogg meet.

Comments [1]

Amazing. I love this video. Simply outstanding.

Oct 3rd, 2010 4:10pm


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