For the 36th Anniversary I decided to attend the film “Prison Dogs,” a moving, adorable documentary that follows three inmates and three US veterans of war on a journey through a dog training program that offers veterans a second chance at recovering from PTSD in providing them with a trained dog. The dog is readily prepared after a hefty 2 year training with an inmate, who teaches them a series of 100 commands and tricks that help combat bad side affects of PTSD, such as sleep tourettes or claustrophobia. However the commands aren’t the only training to be done. The inmates have to train the dog also how to simply exist in an environment that cannot be stressful, AKA the dog cannot react to natural stressors that an un-trained dog might, such as having strangers around, seeing other pets (cats, etc.), or failing to react to their veterans needs. The inmates chosen for the program come with all different types of sentences, and although the individuals who participated in the documentary were tried with murder and armed robbery, there is a multitude of inmates that are given opportunities to be a trainer for these “Prison Dogs.” Both the inmate and the veteran benefit greatly through the opportunity of this type of training and therapy; the inmates gain a second chance throughout their sentences to really show what they have to offer to their communities and how they can still make an impact on the world, given their circumstances, and the veteran gets a second chance at having a normal life outside of war.
The program is hosted and designed by a woman by the name of Gloria Gilbert Stoga, who, with much experience and years of “Puppies Behind Bars” on her belt, successfully evolves an inmate from a criminal to a puppy-lover with much determination, expertise, time-management, and all the while pushes these inmates to want to make this difference for not only a veteran, but themselves too. The film gives insight to all three lives of the inmates and veterans, explaining their crimes and how they have grown since being incarcerated, or their life since war. This in fact was my favorite portion of the film, as the director makes a great, easy way for the viewer to watch the inmates transform and evolve to such higher individuals, those who come from incarnation to taking responsibility of another life.