Female prisoners teaching Mobility Assistance puppies
Sun, 25 Jul 2010 6:30p.m.
By David Farrier
Prison and puppies aren't typically found in the same sentence but at Auckland's woman prison they are proving a perfect match.
Female prisoners are helping The Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust by teaching puppies the tricks of the trade.
“The whole idea is to train these puppies to support people with disabilities to be more functional in the community,” says prison assistant regional manager Vicki Muir.
A team of eight low-risk prisoners teach puppies unique skills; once trained, the dogs will be able to respond to around 50 commands such as opening doors and retrieving items like socks and television remotes.
“It brings out the nurturing, caring, responsible side of these women,” says Ms Muir.
Ezra is the fourth dog to come out of the prison training programme; the two-year-old now spends his days with Tina French, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 10 years ago.
She had had Ezra for only a month before taking a nasty fall in the bathroom just last week.
“Landed on the floor, Roy my husband wasn't home and I knew I couldn't get myself up off the floor,” Ms French says.
“’Get the phone’ was the command, and he did get the phone, he did – in this order – get me his toy, two remotes and a purse,” she says.
But after only three minutes: success.
“And I was thinking, ‘He's going to run out of enthusiasm here as no reward,’ but he kept going back until he got the phone.”
Other skills learned in prison also helped.
“I said to them, ‘I think I can get him to open the door because it was locked and they couldn't get in to help me so I had to tell Ezra to open the door, and it only took him two goes,” Ms French says.
When 3 News visited, Ezra was showing off; doors, remotes – he did it all, all skills he learned behind bars.
Mobility Dogs is a charitable trust, so the partnership with the prison means a cheaper way to train dogs that are coming out of prison as useful members of society.
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5/08/2010 9:29:30 p.m.
karen Bewick wrote:
This is very positive news. There seem to be all round benefits for the people involved.
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