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Puppies for Parole has 1st PHARM Dog
C-T Photos / Catherine Stortz Ripley
February 1, 2016

CAPTION: Bo, a Labrador retriever-Husky mix, has completed the Puppies for Parole program at Chillicothe Correctional Center, and will begin further training to become a four-legged farmhand for disabled farmers, through the PHARM Dog USA program. Bo is the first Puppies for Parole graduate to pursue this training.

Bo was about a year old when he arrived at the Forrest O. Triplett Animal Shelter in Chillicothe. Although a bit rambunctious for his owner, Shelter Guardian Lesley Patek thought he'd be a good candidate for the Puppies for Parole program at Chillicothe Correctional Center. Puppies for Parole is part of the Missouri Department of Correction's restorative justice program. Since this partnership began in 2010, an estimated 300 dogs have been trained at the Chillicothe facility. Bo completed the program and demonstrated potential for advanced training and now is enrolled in P.H.A.R.M. (Pets Helping Agriculture in Rural Missouri) Dog USA, an organization in northwest Missouri that strives to make life easier for farmers and farm family members with disabilities, through the use of trained dogs. Farmers eligible for service may have any type of disability - physical, cognitive, or illness-related. These could include conditions such as amputation, arthritis, back injury, cardiac problems, deafness or hearing impairment, diabetes, muscular dystrophy, and more.

PHARM Dog USA trains border collies for herding purposes and Labrador retrievers or lab-mixes for mobility skills, such as retrieving buckets and opening gates. "They're kind of like a four-legged farmhand for the farmer," said PHARM Dog USA founder and director, Jackie Allenbrand, of Stanberry, Mo.

On Friday, Bo became the first Puppies for Parole graduate to be chosen to pursue additional training in the PHARM Dog USA program. Allenbrand picked up Bo from the correctional center to lead him on his next venture, which will be at her and husband's farm in Gentry County. There, Bo will be trained with service skills that will be used to help a farmer with mobility and retrieval needs. The Allenbrands raise row crops and have a cow-calf operation, so Bo will get "paws-on" training. Allenbrand anticipates the process to go quicker than previous training experiences because Bo already knows basic obedience, house training and extra skills, thanks to the Puppies for Parole program. Bo carries five-gallon buckets (empty or full), retrieves a lost glove or an ink pen if it has been dropped, and picks up things on demand whether it be a screwdriver or pliers. He can also open doors with a rag. "He showed the ability to be advanced trained," said Marla Felton, who coordinates the Puppies for Parole program at Chillicothe Correctional Center. "That's when I contacted Jackie." Felton met Allenbrand during a meeting in St. Joseph in November and learned about PHARM Dog USA. "I thought Bo would be a good dog to fit into her program," she said. Allenbrand said that she has been interested in the Puppies for Parole program and was pleased to have made connection with the Chillicothe Correctional Center in acquiring Bo. "It is our very first adoption from the Puppies for Parole program," Allenbrand said on Friday. She hopes to continue to work with Puppies for Parole so that more farmers can be assisted by trained dogs.

Border collies go through training with a PHARM Dog USA trainer in either Plattsburg, Missouri, or in Iowa. The correctional center gets dogs from animal shelters in Chillicothe and Trenton. "We take the dogs in and the offenders train them," Felton said. "We get dogs of all sizes." At approximately 100 pounds, Bo has been the center's largest dog. The smallest dog has been a Chihuahua. "They come from all walks of life," Felton said. "They could have been relinquished, running the streets, or abandoned." During the first few weeks, the dogs are taught general obedience, such as sit and stay. After that, the dogs and their trainers focus on intense training if the dogs have the capability of doing advanced training. The dogs are trained completely by offenders incarcerated at the correctional center. The program has proven to be successful for not only the dogs that need a forever home, but for the offenders as well. "It gives the offenders the ability to learn leadership and responsibility, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Felton said. The Chillicothe facility has 18 trainers and has capacity to hold 16 dogs."It's a very intense program for the offenders and the dogs," Felton said. "It's hard on offenders because they work with these dogs and then they have to let them go. They know they are going to a forever home, but it is still very emotional for them." Through the process, the offenders learn how to recover from the loss. "The offenders learn as much as the dogs do," Felton said. "It gives the offenders purpose. They're not in prison doing absolutely nothing. They are learning a trade." Patek is pleased with the success of the Puppies for Parole program, stating that dogs are more likely to be adopted if they have basic obedience training. "Nearly every dog that has come out of here has found a home," she said. Dogs completing the program are adopted to homes not only throughout Missouri, but also in other states.

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