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Nevada veterans receive dogs trained by inmates

Four dogs that were trained by Nevada prisoners went home Sunday with veterans who could use their help.

The Pups, Prisoners & Patriots program, which was started in April 2018, rescues dogs that are scheduled to be euthanized at shelters and takes them to Lovelock Correctional Center in Northern Nevada, program director Diane Meier said Sunday.

On Sunday, the program handed the dogs off to four veterans at Aliante Animal Hospital, 3310 Elkhorn Road, in North Las Vegas.

About 20 inmates at the prison volunteer to train the dogs for about three months, teaching them basic commands such as “sit,” “stay” and “lie down.” The dogs live with the inmates 24/7, even sleeping with them in their cells, said Lovelock Warden Renee Baker.

Baker said she asked the prisoners to write down what the program meant to them. Most of them wrote that training the dogs gave them a sense of purpose, she said.

“And a sense of worth. They’re happy to be able to give something back to society, because they feel that maybe they’ve been tossed aside as the dogs have,” Baker said, noting that some of the rescued dogs were days away from being euthanized. “Some of the inmates don’t have contact with their family.”

They also said the program has given them confidence.

“They’re very thankful that Those Left Behind and the Department of Corrections has trusted them, the inmates, to be able to take care of a dog, because a lot of times people would not trust someone that’s in prison,” Baker said. The nonprofit Those Left Behind Foundation runs the Pups, Prisoners & Patriots program.

Meier said that the program also gives the inmates valuable training experience.

“You never know when they’re going to get out and be your neighbor,” Meier said. “You’d like them to have a skill to where they can go and apply that skill when they get out of prison.”

Onyx, a Dutch shepherd with a brindled coat, was matched with Dale Malone, who plans to retire from the Marine Corps in August.

Malone, 42, has a sleep disorder that requires him to put on certain gear and set up machines before he goes to sleep. As a single dad, his teenage twin daughters have helped him manage the disorder, but they will be leaving for college soon, he said.

“When they’re out of the house, who do I have left?” Malone said, gesturing toward Onyx, sitting patiently at his feet. “He’s been pretty much spot on as far as making sure if I fall asleep in the wrong area, he’s there to make sure I’m up and alert to get myself in a position where I need to be to go to bed.”

Contact Kimber Laux at klaux@reviewjournal.com. Follow @lauxkimber on Twitter.

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