by Deirdre Wilson
Here’s a great way to bring a puppy into your family’s lives, if only for a couple of days a week. State corrections officials and the Guide Dog Foundation of Smithtown, N.Y., are looking for Massachusetts families to help care for puppies being trained as assistance dogs for people with disabilities.
The dogs will live with inmates at MCI Framingham, a women’s correctional facility, during the week and receive intensive training. On weekends, however, the Foundation is looking for families willing to take the puppies home with them to provide the kind of socialization the dogs couldn’t get at the prison – going to the mall, restaurants or sporting events, traveling by car and generally becoming part of a family’s lifestyle.
“It’s a win-win situation for all involved,” says Sheila O’Brien, director of external relations for the Guide Dog Foundation (www.GuideDog.org), which has provided assistance dogs for people who are blind, visually impaired or have other special needs since 1946. “We are able to increase our capacity to provide assistance dogs to those who need them, inmates can make a meaningful contribution to society, and correctional facility staff report positive changes in a facility’s atmosphere when the puppies are introduced.”
Female inmates are carefully screened and must meet strict requirements before they’re allowed to raise and train the puppies, according to prison officials. “MCI Framingham is very excited about this new initiative and the impact that it will have both on the inmate population and those who are disabled,” says MCI Superintendent Lynn Bissonnette.
If your family is interested in being a weekend puppy raiser for the Guide Dog Foundation Massachusetts prison puppy program, contact the Foundation at 866-282-8046 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deirdre Wilson is senior editor for the Boston Parents Paper.