Improving Lives – One Dog at a Time

GOAL

Develop pathways for individuals to secure economic stability and opportunity.

CHALLENGE

More than one out of four people who served time in prison and were released are looking for work but cannot find a job.

SUCCESS

Journey Together Service Dog

Finding employment after incarceration can be very difficult for those seeking to turn their lives around. People often leave prison without the education and basic skills they need to obtain and maintain employment. At the Oshkosh Correctional Institution, inmates have a unique opportunity to gain work experience and help those in need.

The Journey Together Service Dog (JTSD) program, run by a group of dedicated volunteers, teaches inmates how to care for and train dogs to become service dogs for people diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),

Inmates are entrusted with all aspects of care and training of the dogs starting at 8 weeks old through their graduation around the age of 2. The dogs live in the cell with the inmate and spend multiple hours a day being trained, groomed, fed and exercised. The inmates are also given the opportunity to help train clients who are receiving the dogs. The men are able to see how their hard work in training these dogs has changed someone’s life.

Although the focus of the program is dog training, JTSD makes sure that inmates gain skills that will benefit them once released. Men can earn a certificate in Dog Training from Fox Valley Technical College. A large percentage of the course work in the certificate program could apply to any small business type role.

“I’ve gained confidence, learning how to become a leader, listener, effective communicator and team player. I’ve also learned how to be humble, patient, and solve problems when needed with the dogs. Having all these qualities will help me be succesful.” – JTSD dog trainer

Several donor advised funds at the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation have supported the Journey Together Service Dog program over the years.

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