While dogs are man’s best friend, service dogs are an essential companion. But before these dogs are able to help guide their chosen human, they have a lot to learn.
KX News introduces you to a couple of unexpected trainers.
Inmates from the Missouri River Correctional Center are putting their time and talent to good use.
MRCC resident David Gunderson says, “It’s nice to give back. You know, working with the dogs, seeing them grow, helps me grow.”
Every year the Service Dogs for America branch out of Judd, North Dakota brings the newest puppies out to play. Several prisoners were there, working to build a new legacy.
Drew Smith has been busy training his companion, Elaine. He says they’re still working on the basics like ‘sit’ and ‘stay’, but one day soon, she’ll be a hero.
MRCC Resident Drew Smith shares, “For example, if there is someone who has seizures because they’re diabetic, the dog can be trained to alert the person, and even press a button if the person is going to have a problem.”
David Gunderson is no stranger to preparing service dogs. He’s been doing so for about a year and a half. His current dog, MJ, has been by his side for two months.
Gunderson adds, “He’s a two-year-old American lab. He’s the third dog that I’ve worked with.”
Together, they’re learning how to save someone’s life.
Gunderson explains, “With MJ we’ve worked a little on more advanced stuff, PTSD commands: closer, watch my back, that type of thing. For seizure response: alert. Somebody that has a seizure, the dog will go and hit an alert button and then come back and provide heat pressure therapy.”
These canine relationships mean a lot to Gunderson and Smith.
Smith shares, “It’s a good way to pass my time. It’s rewarding to see the dogs make progress, and it’s cool to know that eventually, the dog will really be able to help someone.”
Gunderson told us working with these dogs, calms him and makes him more comfortable. He says it’s nothing but rewarding to get outside of the jail for a day and give back to his community.