Perspectives from an Inmate Service Dog Trainer at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

Perspectives from an Inmate Service Dog Trainer at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

by Thurman Sherrill, Cedar Creek Corrections Center

Editor’s note: Today’s post was written in early October 2012 by an inmate at CCCC who has been involved with the dog-training program there.  All SPP prisons in Washington have similar programs.  Benefits of these programs include the therapeutic value and increased responsibility that comes with working with animals and a connection to the community at large through service.

Hello readers. My name is Thurman Sherrill. I am a primary dog handler for the Brigadoon Service Dog Program here at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Along with the secondary dog handlers we are all responsible for the training, nurturing, and well-being of each service dog. Our training consists of basic commands such as “sit”, “down”,  “stay,” “go in,” “kennel,” “loose leash walking,” and “come” just to name a few.

Recently, I trained my dog Donner to read basic commands of “sit” “down” and “stand” without verbal communication. Before Donner, my secondary trainer Don Glaude and I had a dog named Duke. He was a wiry little fella, but easy to train with the proper treats.

The behavior I was most impressed with in Duke is that we taught him to turn on a light switch, a trick he aced 9 out of 10 times.

From a personal standpoint, this program is not only a chance for me to give back to my community, but it has also given me a sense of pride and self-accomplishment. When I arrived here at Cedar Creek 7 months ago, being a primary dog handler was the furthest thing from my mind, until CO (Correctional Officer) Alberton asked me if I wanted to be in the dog program. There was not a long list of applicants putting in for this position, so at that very moment, I knew this was the task I wanted to take on because I welcome challenges. Since I entered this program along with my secondary, Mr. Glaude, we have helped graduate two service dogs, Boadie and Duke.

All of the primary dog handlers, along with the secondary trainers, work together as a unit and share all responsibilities equally when it comes to training and caring for these dogs. There is nothing better than the unity we share amongst one another, all coming from different backgrounds with different beliefs but with one common goal, which is to train these dogs and graduate them to the next level for more advanced training.

Our CUS (Correctional Unit Supervisor) Cheryl Jorban and our boss CO Alberton oversee the program to make sure that we  do our job properly, and also that the dogs receive proper medical treatment if necessary. We meet twice weekly on Mondays and Wednesdays to receive instructions from two professional Brigadoon Dog Trainers, Elizabeth and Denise, and they also evaluate the dogs’ progress along with ours.

The dogs we train will eventually be placed with veterans who may suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). I am blessed and very fortunate to learn the skills that I have learned, and at the end of the day I am proud to say that I will always keep this experience with me, and continue to give back, because it feels good, and it is the right thing to do.

Thank you for this opportunity.

 

     Cedar Creek Corrections Center Inmate Dog Handlers talk about their experiences in the program for a tour group in September 2012. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

 

          A Dog Handler and his trainee demonstrate the light-switch skill for a tour group at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

9 Comments:

  1. dog artist

    You’re really blessed to have responded to such a calling of training dogs and I can’t hep but be impressed with the things you are able to teach the dogs. I myself am wondering how to potty train a dog? I would want my dog to poo outside the house and not inside. Are you teaching that?

    Reply to this comment ↓
  2. dog trainer new york city

    Dogs can be excellent four-legged companions to anyone looking for a loving pet. But an untrained dog can spell disaster for its owners. Becoming a certified dog trainer can be a challenging, yet rewarding career option if you enjoy working with dogs and have a desire to help pet owners train them. Thanks.

    Reply to this comment ↓
  3. Sree689

    Dogs can be excellent four-legged companions to anyone looking for a loving pet. But an untrained dog can spell disaster for its owners. Becoming a certified dog trainer can be a challenging, yet rewarding career option if you enjoy working with dogs and have a desire to help pet owners train them. Thanks.
    dog trainer new york city

    Reply to this comment ↓
  4. Jessica Raigner

    Hi my name is jessica I am really curious about this program and how the dogs are chosen for the program i think its really a great thing to put in the prisons. I have more questions regrading this please answer if there is anyone who has more information email me…
    thanks for your time

    Reply to this comment ↓

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *