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Some "guardian angels" are giving unwanted animals a second chance behind the wire

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

MCLOUD, Okla -- They are the outcasts, the abandoned, and abused. But these animals are getting a second chance at the “Guardian Angels” dog training program. Inmate, Heather Hood said, “Even his floppy ears are standing up. He normally would run to the back of the kennel. Now he’s like, humans are okay. He’s thriving right now and this is what we are passionate about. This is exactly why we do what we do.”

The inmates at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center show the animals love and encouragement. According to inmate, Katherine Rutan, “A lot of them have never been given love or affection. They are really appreciative of everything that we do for them. They give us as much love as we do them. It makes our day!”

They are also given basic skills to make them more adoptable on the outside. Without this training, dogs like “River Heart” would likely be euthanized. Inmate Tye Shafer said, “She’s deaf, our deaf one. She’s a good girl. Deaf dogs are easy to train because it’s all about hand signals and contact. Building a bond for a deaf dog to listen. Deaf dogs are my favorite to train.”

Some of these animals will eventually become therapy and service dogs.

And the inmates get as much from this program as the pets. They learn responsibility, commitment and unconditional love. Guardian Angels Coordinator, Lisa Bennett said, “A couple have been here for 20 years or more. And they haven’t seen a dog in 20 years. So it allows them to get in touch with those feelings they’ve shut down and tempered while in prison. It brings back those feelings and makes them more humanized.”

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is an agency of redemption, even for animals. Rutan told us, “Just like we are given a second chance, these dogs are given a second chance. That means the world to them and us at the same time.”

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