Today I went to go see my first film to kick off my 2016 HIFF experience, and man was it a good choice! The film I chose to go see was a documentary called Prison Dogs. And yes, I was biased and went to see it because it had the word “dog” in the title. But that was not the only reason; it is a “story of love, loss, hope, and redemption”. Prison Dogs takes a look at a unique training program for dogs and prison inmates. Gloria Gilbert Stoga is the president and founder of the organization Puppies Behind Bars. Their mission is “to train prison inmates to raise service dogs for wounded war veterans and explosive detection canines for law enforcement”.
Gloria started the program with the intent to change the lives of prisoners. Having a living object to have to take care of on a daily basis gives these inmates a second chance to prove that they are not the same person that they were when they first entered the prison. The film was shot over a 2-year period in at Fishkill State Correctional Facility in New York. It demonstrated that getting into the program is not easy, and once you are in, you have to prove that you deserve to be there; one mess up and the inmate could have their puppy taken away and be kicked out of the program. The men are also faced with mockery and threats from other prisoners not given the opportunity to be a part of the program.
But why do these men get puppies? Well, by the time the service dogs graduate, they have learned over 85 commands that are necessary in the industry as well as 5 other commands that are specific to the wounded warriors suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI). The film introduces the audience to 3 veterans as well as a few of the inmates that are in the program raising these puppies for the veterans.
If you love a movie that pulls on your heart strings, then I highly recommend seeing this documentary. It is available on Amazon, iTunes, Vimeo, and Google Play.
Information provided by: http://program.hiff.org/films/detail/prison_dogs_2016 & http://www.puppiesbehindbars.com/