Lessons in Love, Beyond Prison Walls

A man holds a young golden retriever puppy, kissing him on the head.Gary was searching for a purpose while behind prison bars – looking for a meaningful way to give back to the community. Fortunately, he was able to join the life-changing Canine Companions prison puppy raising program.  

“I’m glad to be part of changing things,” Gary says. “The other inmates are astounded that we can train dogs here. When I walk with future service dog Pepper up and down the hallways, people just want to love him because some of these people haven’t been around animals in a very long time.”  

Interacting with Canine Companions puppies, like Pepper, brings joy and love to everyone in a place where emotions and connections are hard to express – and it makes a difference for inmate handlers in the long term. Men and women who raise puppies with this program are far more likely to stay out of prison after their release, with most never returning. That’s a big deal, when the recidivism rate in U.S. prisons is 44%.  

“The puppies I’ve raised helped me to heal and taught me how to give love and receive love,” Gary remarks. “You get such a bond with these creatures, and I grieve when they leave, but I know it serves a greater purpose. Pepper is going to someone who loves him, and he can love and help.”