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Courthouse "emotional support dogs" trained by ODOC inmates

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

MCLOUD, Okla. – Model inmates like Kimberly Wenthold, are discovering purpose in prison. She’s among the select few who train unwanted animals, behind the wire. 

“It’s just such a blessing everyday,” Kimberly Wenthold said. 

This 6 year old yellow lab is her latest project. Willa is being trained to become an emotional support dog. 

Willa will work at the Cleveland County Courthouse – the same place Kimberly was convicted and sentenced 5 years ago.  

“I’m just happy to know I can be a part of any healing in Cleveland County,” Wenthold said. “I know she’s going to to fantastic. Willa has a lot of healing power. We are super excited about it.” 

Tye Schafer has been working with Whiskey Bear since he was a puppy. This gentle German Shepard is heading to McClain County to help children testify in tough cases. 

“He’ll help us work hand in hand with our victims,” Assistant DA Johnathon Fried said. “It will help them relax in a stressful situation. They have to testify and relive the incident they had and that can bring up the same fears and feelings as well.”  

These dogs will also offer comfort to the courthouse staff.  

“One of the benefits we’ve seen with this program is with the employees as well,” Fried said. “It can lighten the stress we get from working with the suspects. There are some things we see most won’t ever see in their life.”   

And knowing the dogs were trained here at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center makes this partnership even more rewarding.  

“It makes it really more special," District 21 DA Greg Mashburn said. “Knowing the history and where the dogs have been, who trained it, makes it much more special.”

Now that Willa and Whiskey Bear are gone, the inmate trainers will begin working on a new batch of unwanted animals. 

They are equally committed to find every dog a forever home.  

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