Raised in Prison, Trained for Soldiers
By: Ian McCracken
One of the Spring, 2014 Planet Dog Foundation (PDF) grant recipients, Brigadoon Service Dogs in Washington, is providing returning soldiers with the caring partner they need (of the 4-legged canine kind).
More and more soldiers are coming back home with either Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), about 11 to 20 percent according to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Now more than ever, soldiers need a companion to help cope with the tragedies and the aftermath of modern warfare. Brigadoon Service Dogs are helping to meet their needs with dogs trained by convicts at various Washington prisons.
Low-risk convicts train service dogs and turn their lives around
Low-risk convicts train service dogs for future pairing with a returning soldier suffering from either PTSD or TBI. It is regarded as the most coveted job at many institutions.
One man, Larry Gregory Jr. at Cedar Creek Correctional Center, has caught the attention of Brigadoon Service Dogs founder Denise Constanten. As a member in the dog-training program, Gregory has successfully trained several dogs, including Aiden, the lone mixed-breed dog (mainly a German and Australian shepherd mix) of his fellow purebred peers.
Aiden’s mother birthed him, along with many other pups, under an abandoned trailer on the Lummi Nation reservation in 2011. After six months in a foster home, his owners recommended he be sent to Brigadoon, noting increased intelligence once his fear of humans subsided.
Aiden struggled at first with the world outside of home and prison walls. At a grocery store, he went into a panic attack from the roar of a leaf blower. With the help of Gregory, however, Aiden became ready to fulfill his eventual purpose: service for a returning soldier. To read the full story on Aiden and Larry Gregory Jr., click here.
Brigadoon dogs helping with PTSD and mobility
Specialist Mike Ballard is one who has benefited tremendously from Brigadoon’s program. Ballard developed severe PTSD after rolling over a roadside bomb in Afghanistan which required major surgery. Becoming a part of the Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base Lewis McChord he was paired with Apollo, a short-haired collie.
Because the blast shattered his femur in the explosion back in 2009, Apollo assists with Ballard’s mobility. He is also there for Ballard to pet and soothe any time he relives a traumatic episode. With the help of Apollo, he sees his psychiatrist only when he deems necessary, he sleeps better, is more social, is off numerous medications and now raises and trains eventual service dogs. You can see the entire story of Apollo and Mike Ballard on KOMO News.
Brigadoon received $7,500 grant from the Planet Dog Foundation
Brigadoon Service Dogs proves a worthy recipient for the PDF $7,500 grant because of the lasting affects of their services. Prisoners are statistically less likely to re-offend when part of the dog-training program. Soldiers are also better able to cope with the lasting affects of PTSD and TBI with a canine companion.