Shelter puppies help inmates in ‘Paws in the Pen’ program
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M – Puppies are changing lives inside a prison in New Mexico. The program is called “Paws in the Pen” and it’s proving to be beneficial on so many levels.
Cody and Lily are two puppies who aren’t living in the type of pen you might expect. They recently left their own difficult pasts behind, to help humans overcome theirs too.
“I can kinda understand what they’re going through,” said Chris.
Chris has his own past that landed him in prison years ago, and Cody has his that landed him in the Española Humane Society. But, Chris got the opportunity to start training dogs in a southern New Mexico prison back in 2015.
He says it quickly changed his life.
“Before I got into this, even my family they saw me as the guy in prison, and after I got into this, maybe like a year, that’s when my family actually came out here to New Mexico and visited me,” said Chris.
His mom even took home one of the several dogs he trained in that facility. So when he moved to the penitentiary in Santa Fe, he jumped at the opportunity to keep training.
“I’ve gotten myself in plenty of trouble and since I started with this, I have clear conduct, I mean this is it,” Chris said.
He’s now training another inmate to help expand the program. That inmate shares a cell with Lily, a black pit bull from the Española Humane Society who needed a leg up.
“Dogs don’t judge, and they’re just– dogs are love, and their heart’s wrapped in fur, and they just walk around believing in you, and that I think is so powerful,” said Mattie Allen with the Española Humane Society.
Allen says the mutual benefits are undeniable.
“To be able to get dogs out of the shelter environment where we can learn more about them, and they can learn more about themselves is just incredibly beneficial,” she said. “They just bring so much joy to people at the same time teaching inmates about responsibility and empathy.”
And these dogs aren’t only teaching Chris and his peer, their joy spreads throughout the pen.
“Doing the baby talk with the dog, or playing with the dog, or the dog’s rolling over on his back, and they’re rubbing his little belly. These are tattooed guys that you would probably cross the street if you saw them out there, you’d cross the other side of the street, and they’re in here, and they’re playing with this little puppy,” said Chris. “I’m pretty sure if I would’ve started this maybe before I came to prison I probably wouldn’t be in here.”
Española Humane plans to send more dogs once Cody and Lily graduate, and hopes to expand it to more than two at a time in the future.
If you’re interested in donating two dogs, or adopting, visit the Española Humane Society’s website.