In July, Yellow Lab Ziggy was donated to the HMCC service dog training program by a deploying soldier. Since then, Ziggy has been leashed to prisoner trainer Jennie Evers. “He’s a great barker,” Evers said. That said, Ziggy has been working hard on basic commands.
AK DOC Dogs in Training
Dedicated to the Alaska Department of Corrections Cell Dog and Service Dog Training Goals and Accomplishments
Ten, who gets his name from his litter-birth-order, was donated to the Hiland Mountain service dog training program by a local breeder of Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. Ten has been with the program for six months; his prisoner trainer is Cassandra Russell. Russell said Ten is “hard-headed but very smart and very loving.” He’s mastered a number of the basic commands, but is still working on “stay.” Russell explained “he just likes to be with people.”
With his deployment days away, soldier Marcos Rico was searching for a home for his yellow Labrador Zigmond, or Ziggy. Learning of the Service Dog training program at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center, Rico contacted the department with the goal of donating Ziggy to the program. His hope was that Ziggy could be trained and then turned over to be of assistance to a wounded veteran or disabled child. After a few conversations, Ziggy was deemed a good fit for training and early this month he transferred to Hiland Mountain where his care and training has begun. Ziggy is AKC registered, weighs just about 70 lbs.
Two dogs trained at Wildwood Correctional Center in Kenai are looking for adoptive homes. LeRoy is a neutered full-blood Labrador who is very gentle. LeRoy is deaf, but has learned some hand signals. Roman is a year-old Black Lab mix and will be ready for adoption in about four weeks. He’s a big guy, about 80 pounds and would make a great hiking companion. He is neutered and up to date on shots.
Shannon McCloud, assistant superintendent at Wildwood Correctional Facility in Kenai reports the following:
The Wildwood Transitional Facility “SPOT” program is happy to announce the adoption of Lucy. A family inquired about adopting a dog to continue in training to be a service dog. When the family arrived to look at the dog, Lillie grabbed the leash and said “my Lucy!” The inmates and staff nearly melted into the floor! Lucy the Lab is doing well in her new home.
Wildwood also has for adoption: LeRoy, a full blood black lab, very smart, full of energy but is deaf. Inmate trainers are working on teaching him hand signals. It is a slow process but he already knows quite a few commands. He is available now. Roman is a very large Black Lab mix. He is still in puppy training as he is only about 10 months old. He is learning his basic commands and should be available in about 4-6 weeks. Are you interested in adopting LeRoy or Roman? If so, please email Assistant Superintendent McCloud HERE.
Hiland Mountain Correctional Center will formally transfer its newest inmate-trained Service Dogs to wounded warriors on February 20th at 1 pm. Bella is a two-year old Black Labrador Retriever who was donated to HMCC as a puppy by a Mat-Su Valley breeder, Byers Peak Labradors. Maddie came to Hiland Mountain as an eight-week old puppy from the Mat-Su Animal Care Shelter. She was spotted by shelter staff for her intelligence and suitability to service dog training.
Bella will be paired with Aaron Willard, who lives in Fairbanks. In 2004 Willard received a commission from the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Wainwright with the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. He quickly deployed to Iraq, where he was wounded twice, most seriously on the night of October 30, 2006. That’s when Willard and his patrol were ambushed by an explosive projectile, small arms and machine gun fire. As a result of the attack Willard was severely injured and spent three years recovering at Fort Wainwright before medically retiring in August, 2009.
Sgt. John S. Revilak, who is being paired with Maddie, joined the Army in 2004. In June 2007 John, who had been assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, was deployed to Afghanistan. On October 11th, 2007 his platoon was ambushed with an IED disabling the lead vehicle of 1st Platoon. Immediately, enemy forces opened up with a volley of RPGs and small arms fire. Revilak’s vehicle caught fire, forcing those inside to exit under heavy enemy fire.
The intensity of the exploding IED resulted in John sustaining a traumatic brain injury which left him in constant pain. Despite that, John remained with his unit for another year until he was reassigned to the San Diego Naval Hospital. John medically retired in February, 2011.
Bella and Maddie are the sixth and seventh service dogs trained by inmate volunteers at Hiland Mountain.
In June, the Wildwood Correctional Center Minimum Camp began a Cell Dog program, modeled after the very successful SPOT program at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center. The first dog to come into the program was “Milo” an Australian Shepard; he’s remained the camp dog and there are no plans for him to be adopted. Woody ,another Australian Shepard was trained for about 90 days and was quickly adopted.
Layla, a Rottweiler-Husky mix was a mess when she came to the program. After four months, she calmed down and turned into a fantastic dog. As of last week, she has been given a new home, and her new owners have become quite attached to her. The newest challenge is “Honey” a golden lab mix. She has some medical issues but the inmates at the minimum camp have agreed to conduct a fundraiser to pay the cost to fix those problems.
“Overall the program is making good strides and the training is always ongoing,” said Assistant Superintendent Shannon McCloud. “An outside trainer comes once per week for individual instruction and the handlers are expected to train with their dogs every day. So far they have taught Milo (and Layla) to open doors and to turn out the lights.
Our mission at this time is basic obedience, but the future for this program in unlimited.”