KINGMAN – Sandy Spruiell was excited about her trip to a local prison today, where she delivered a speech on what she has been working on for decades – training dogs.
Over the next six to eight weeks, Spruiell and her co-worker, Nancy Gifford, will visit the prison at least once a week to do on-site training and monitor results of the Prison Dog Program.
The program calls for Mutt Matchers & Friends, a local dog protection organization, to send selected dogs to the prison to partner with selected volunteer inmates. The dogs will live with the inmates and receive basic training such as how to heel, sit, stay and come, in addition to being socialized and house-trained.
“We have been preparing for the program for a long time. It’s going to benefit everyone,” said Spruiell, founder of Mutt Matchers.
“We believe this program will make it possible to save from euthanasia a large number of dogs, while, at the same time, giving the inmate partners a sense of pride and accomplishment,” Spruiell said.
The inmates’ involvement in this program will help them develop patience, improve communication and organization skills and learn good work ethics., Spruiell said.
When they leave the prison, the experiences will help them transition to their normal lives more smoothly.
The program is also going to benefit local dog adopters by offering them well-trained dogs, Spruiell said. Under an agreement reached earlier with the prison, selected dogs from Mutt Matchers will be spayed or neutered and have at least initial shots before entering the program.
Dogs will remain the property of Mutt Matchers & Friends and be returned to their adoption center for placement after training. The adoption center will be responsible for dog food and veterinary care.
The prison is responsible for selecting qualified inmates as trainers and offering a furnished dormitory for inmates and their trained dogs to live in during training sessions.
During the maiden round of the cooperation, which officially starts today, Mutt Matchers & Friends will send three dogs to the prison to pair with six inmates. Two of them will train one dog – one as primary trainer and one as secondary. A seventh inmate will also be enrolled into the program as a backup.
After a few days of knowledge training, three dogs will be sent to the prison on Friday, and after six weeks of training, they will graduate from the program and be ready for adoption on June 2.
If everything goes well, Spruiell said, the prison would host an open house in the middle of the six weeks to offer the public an opportunity to get involved in the program.
At a later date, Spruiell plans to expand the training to 10 dogs and keep the program running year-round.
The initial motivation to create Mutt Matchers & Friends, Spruiell said, was to save more dogs from euthanasia from city shelters. With limited space, Spruiell can only host about 10 dogs in her shelter. If this program goes well, she hopes she can achieve a balanced rotation between her shelter and the prison, in hopes of doubling the number of the dogs she can save. The 10 dogs can go to their adopters immediately after graduation, while at the same time, 10 other dogs enter the program. This way, the shelter can save 20 dogs at the same time.
First established in February 2003 as a non-profit organization, Mutt Matchers & Friends has been running under the support of local donations and volunteers.