See How a Dog Program at the Gadsden Facility is Helping Women Change

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Canine Companions is a nonprofit organization providing assistance dogs to people with disabilities. They have partnered with the Gadsden Correctional Facility where chosen inmates have raised over 150 dogs. The video was produced by Canine Companions and is edited for length. To view the entire video, click here.

“Barboza (an assistance dog) started his training at the Gadsden Correctional Facility with an inmate named Brynn,” says Mary Ashlyn an exercise physiologist with Shepherd Pathways who uses assistance dogs. “And when he graduated through team training with me, Brynn sent us a handmade blanket, a toy, and a small photo of Barboza from when he was a puppy at Gadsden. And then she also wrote us a letter and a card.  It said that she was so proud of him, and she was so happy that he was going to do the job that he was born to do.”

“Hi, I’m Brynn,” begins Brynn’s letter to Mary. “When Barboza was placed as a facility dog I was so happy I cried with joy. We had done it. Knowing the work he is doing now, and the hundreds of lives he is impacting makes me so proud and so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of it. I love everything this program stands for and it gives me a sense of purpose I didn’t have before. There is no greater joy than providing a life-changing gift for so many other people. Sincerely, Brynn.”

Another incarcerated woman at Gadsden adds her response to what it means to work in the program.

“Dog Team means a lot to me, it teaches me responsibility. I’m a mentor on the Dog Team. It makes me give back to the community. I made a few mistakes in my time. I really enjoy this Dog Team. I want to stay involved in it when I do go home.”

Another incarcerated trainer speaks to the program.

“I can only speak for myself,” she says, “but I know that originally, unfortunately, I made a lot of bad choices in my life. I think the puppy program itself has taught me more of the unconditional love that I always look for in my life.

“I wish I could show you just by taking my dog and walking out on the compound, that even if you’re not a part of the program, what it does for the other women on the compound. They can be struggling with issues at home and just learning to deal with the mistakes they’ve made in their life, and they see a dog. And it’s like you just see it wipe away. Sometimes even just being able to interact with our dogs means the world to these girls.

“It’s crazy to say, but I’ve had some of my best moments of my life here; being part of [the dog program].”