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What one former Michigan inmate gained from training dogs

Dec 1, 2014

Martin Daughenbaugh and Quinn.

As part of its mission to save shelter dogs from being euthanized, Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan came up with an idea: place these rescued or unwanted dogs with trainers - trainers who have the time to work with the dogs, to train them for adoption into a good home - trainers who are behind bars.

The RPSM's Correctional Companion Program places dogs with specially trained prison inmates, and what happens in the time these inmates spend with their dogs is powerful. Martin Daughenbaugh has seen this power in his own life. As an inmate of the state prison in Coldwater, Martin met a blind dog named Quinn.

And it's a story worth sharing.

Daughenbaugh, serving a lengthy prison sentence, says that in prison he had given up hope of having a normal life after his release. But after hearing about the RPSM, Daughenbaugh became inspired and requested a transfer to Coldwater for the opportunity to work with dogs.

“I’ve always loved dogs…I have a fondness for them,” Daughenbaugh said.

Listen to our conversation with Daughenbaugh below.

Daughenbaugh says the opportunity presented to him by RPSM was a unique. Not many inmates have a chance to work with dogs.

The inmates who were a part of this program were divided into two-person teams who would train a dog for 10 weeks before returning the dog and receiving a new one. Daughenbaugh says that it was always tough returning a dog after the 10-week period. He and the other inmates would grow attached to each dog they trained.

Daughenbaugh says that what he and the other inmates would teach the dogs, who were usually dogs who ended up in shelters after being given up by their previous owner, were basic obedience commands.

Daughenbaugh was not only the trainer, he says he learned a lot from training dogs through RPSM. He says that the dogs taught him about the empathy and unconditional love it requires to take care of another living being.

Daughenbaugh says that RPSM gave him hope for when he was released. After his release, he became a member of RPSM and says he does everything he can for the program.