How can you hold something so tiny and precious, learn to love it and raise it, then let it go? For the inmates taking on the Puppies Behind Bars challenge in a heart-warming film, Prison Dogs, this is what they had to do. From puppy love to strict training, the inmates found love and hope in their paired puppies. These soon-to-be service dogs became the inmates companion, best friend, and someone to care for for two years.
To spend every day with the only thing putting a smile on your face, filling your heart with joy, and staying by your side, and then to let them go has to be the greatest sacrifice. Sacrificing their own love for their dogs, and saying goodbye to their companions to help Veterans with PTSD. In the beginning it might have seemed like a great way to redeem themselves, but I am sure they had no idea just how much those puppies would change their lives and their hearts. From puppy love to adult dogs, the love between the two never faded.
At the beginning of the film we watch as the selected inmates are paired with their puppies for the first time. We can see the joy and excitement in their eyes as they hold onto their tiny puppies. We watch the inmates grow strong bonds with the puppies, creating scrapbooks to collect their memories together, and even hear their one of voice change as they call to their puppies as if they were their own children. Some inmates saw their loved ones inside of their puppy. They saw a second chance to make things right, to start over, and raise the children they could not at home. These thoughts stayed with them as the program continued, and after three months is when the real training began.
Now that the dogs are older, smarter, and already have the basic training down, it was time for the inmates to switch gears and really pick up the pace. This change in tempo was difficult for some inmates, and one even fell through the cracks. He was unable to keep up and although he showed the love his dog needed, there was a bigger picture that he was missing and had to be let go.
These dogs were to be trained to learn one hundred plus commands in order to become a service dog for disabled military veterans. A challenging task that are unfit for some, but for those who stuck with the program for two years had the most difficult challenge ahead of them, and that was to let go.
At the graduation ceremony where veterans were officially paired with a service dog, tears were shed not only in the movie, but in the audience as well. One veteran put his hand on an inmate’s shoulder, and thanked him for his service. He told the inmate that is he was in his shoes he does not know how he would be able to let go of his dog, and for that he has the utmost respect for him. This short scene showed the love and compassion these prison dogs brought to the inmates, and just how hard it is to watch a loved one walk away.
In the end it was the only thing they could do and what the inmates signed up for. It made each and every inmate a better person, and gave three veterans the love and support they needed to live normal lives. Without the inmates sacrifice of training these dogs and letting them go, those three veterans would not have the lives that they have now.