JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It's a project that First Coast News is extremely proud to support. K9s for Warriors trains service dogs for veterans who suffer from issues like PTSD.
There is a four-year wait list for veterans to receive these service dogs, so K9s For Warriors turned to an unlikely group of dog trainers. They are known as the first graduates of the "Paws for Change" class.
They know all of the commands. After four months of training, these dogs are ready to join other dogs in the K9s For Warriors kennels, but their trainers won't be joining them. That's because they're inmates at the Montgomery Correctional Center.
Richard Devore is an inmate and an army veteran. He says that training future service dog Brutus was important for him in many ways.
"I take pride in what I do," says Devore, "and this, I take extra pride in knowing that it's going to help one of my fellow veterans."
At the Montgomery Correctional Center, it's not just the dogs that are benefitting. The learning goes both ways.
"He's definitely helping me," says Devore, "getting me back in routines where I get up in the morning to take him out. It's given me a sense of pride again. I really lost myself coming to jail and now being in this program, it's built up my pride again to where I have something to look forward to when I get out."
The growth of the inmates is noticed by law enforcement as well.
"I have seen them personally grow as men by learning to be accountable, learning to be responsible for someone else besides themselves, learning how to be a member of a team," says JSO officer Lisa Harrell.
And through the efforts of these inmates, these dogs will help our veterans.