Left to right — Jerremy Merrow with Milo and Rey Soto with Honey
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.”
Sophie, who has been in service dog training by inmates and staff for well over a year at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River will be transferred to wounded soldier Captain Christopher Harrington at 11:30 am Friday, December 14, at HMCC.
Captain Harrington, originally from Antioch, California, enlisted in the Army in 1991 and completed nine years of enlisted active duty, earning the rank of Staff Sergeant, before receiving a commission as a Second Lieutenant from the California State University Sacramento and University of California Davis ROTC in 2004. Captain Harrington since has completed a Bachelor of Arts degree from CSU Sacramento and earned a Master’s of Public Administration from Webster University.
He has served in various engineer units both in the United States and overseas, as well as participate in several deployments to the Balkans, South Pacific Theater, and Middle East in support of humanitarian and combat operations. During combat operations in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, Captain Harrington served as a Leader of a Combat Engineer platoon in support of a Armor Company and as the Task Force Engineer in support of a Light Infantry Task Force, providing both a maneuver and maneuver support capability. While conducting cordon and search operations in December of 2006, Captain Harrington was wounded in an IED attack and then again in January 2007 was severely wounded by an indirect fire attack during clearing operations.
Chris remains on active duty and currently commands the Headquarters and Headquarters Company (Airborne), 6th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Airborne) at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. He is married to the former Teresa Martin of Antioch. They have two children, Carter (6) and Aiden (4).
Milo, an Australian Shepherd is the first dog to undergo training at Wildwood Minimum Camp’s new SPOT program.
The Wildwood Correctional Center Minimum Camp has started a dog program. The program was originally started by Hiland Mountain and has proven to be a very successful community partnership.
Wildwood Correctional Center has inaugurated a SPOT (Special Pet Obedience Training) program and its first dog is MILO, an Australian Shepherd. MILO will remain at the minimum camp and be the ambassador dog for the program, said Assistant Superintendent Shannon McCloud.
“Once training has begun and the inmate handlers understand the process, a dog from the local animal shelter will be placed at the facility, and when basic training is complete, the local pet shelter will work on placement of the dog with a family,” McCloud said. “So far the program has been positive therapy for inmates and staff. It is hoped that the program will grow in the future as more handlers are trained to work within the program.”
Each year Hiland Mountain Correctional Center provides a temporary home for sled dogs dropped from the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Inmate volunteers care for the dogs until they can be reunited with their musher owners.
Madison, an 11-month-old golden retriever mix, is very ‘treat oriented’ according to inmate trainer Winona Fletcher. “Madison is very smart. She learns very fast and gets it right away,” her trainer said. “She can carry just about anything. Actually when she gets bored she starts bringing you things whether you want them or not.” Madison is in her first year of training.
Purebred AKC-registered Labrador Cooper is the only male service dog in training at HMCC. “He’s the only boy in a sea of girls,” said inmate trainer Cindy Galvan. “Cooper is a slow learner, but once he gets it he’s perfect.” Cooper came to HMCC from a breeder in Illinois through the assistance of Sister Pauline Quinn. “He hasn’t figured out the light switches, but he takes the garbage out every day. He’s going to be a great service dog because he has the perfect temperament. Cooper is in his first year of training.
Bella, a year-old English Labrador, is at the midpoint of her first year of training as a service dog. “She has about a year to go,” said inmate trainer Dana Hilbish. “She has learned to take socks off, and she’s very good at bringing items to you and bringing items to someone else. You just have to watch to make sure actually leaves the item where it is being sent!” Bella has also learned to open and close doors.
Sophie, along with Baylee, comprises the senior class of service dogs at HMCC and will be paired with a new owner within the next month or so. “Sophie likes wearing the vest,” said her inmate trainer. “And she loves carrying things … anything that you want her to bring you.”
Sophie with inmate trainer Amber Martin
“Baylee is a clown. And a climber,” said inmate trainer Tamara Riley of HMCC senior class member Baylee, a mixed breed Labrador mix with “a lot of energy.” Baylee will likely be paired with a veteran with PTSD and is in the final stages of training. “Baylee will be perfect for a person with PTSD,” said her trainer. “She is really good about looking around corners and keeping a perimeter. She is very attentive and she loves her humans.” Baylee is not a fancy breed dog but is proving a natural service dog. “She’s a natural. She picks items up and can turn light switches on and off.”
Baylee clowning around with her service dog trainer