Updated: June 01, 2021 09:34 PM
Created: June 01, 2021 05:00 PM
For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, puppies have joined inmates at the Duluth Federal Prison Camp.
A litter of seven labrador puppies and their mom, Yoga, were dropped off at the prison Thursday afternoon. It's all arranged through Can Do Canines, a Twin Cities area organization that provides service dogs free of charge to people who need help with mobility, hearing loss, seizures, diabetic alert, and autism.
"These dogs are little life-changers," Kaity McGinn said.
McGinn runs Can Do Canines' prison program. Duluth serves as a "weaning prison," meaning they take in a litter of puppies when they are 5 weeks old and keep them for five weeks. The inmates help wean them off of mom and get them eating kibbel and start crate and potty training.
"Once the puppies hit 8 weeks, they're ready to start kind of exploring the world," McGinn said. "So they're able to utilize the entire prison camp. They can start walking around and meeting other people and seeing the mess hall and ... just walking around the place."
She said the prison program has been sorely missed throughout the pandemic.
"The training that goes into them in those five weeks at the prison really has shown because when these puppies go to a volunteer at 10 weeks, that volunteer already can see, wow, they know some commands already, they're basically potty-trained, they're not screaming through the night in their kennels anymore," she said.
McGinn says it a win-win for both Can Do Canines and the inmates.
"They get to just get that unconditional love, they're so proud of these dogs. I mean, when we come in with the puppies, they're like, 'Let me show you what they learned today. Let me show you this.' They're so excited," she said. "And it's just such a cool thing for them to be part of. They can give back a little to the community while they're doing their time."
She said some inmates have shared that they were inspired to keep giving back once they have served their time.
Can Do Canines has volunteer opportunities that range from service dog training to simply chauffeuring a litter to a prison.
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