JAKE LAYS on his back hoping for a belly rub as he and Melvin, in the background, get ready to show the skills they learned in a dog training program at Two Bridges Regional Jail. Below, inmate Norman Palmer smiles down at Melvin.

JAKE LAYS on his back hoping for a belly rub as he and Melvin, in the background, get ready to show the skills they learned in a dog training program at Two Bridges Regional Jail. Below, inmate Norman Palmer smiles down at Melvin.

WISCASSET

A new dog training program at Two Bridges Regional

Jail is expected to help give local shelter dogs some simple, ready obedience skills to take to a new home. Beyond the Bars was launched as a partnership between the jail and the Coastal Humane Society and Lincoln County Animal Shelter.

 

 

The first graduates of the program weren’t feeling any pre-ceremony jitters Tuesday before showing off what they learned. Melvin, a four-year-old terrier mix, greeted everyone. Jake, a two-year-old Border Collie mix, rolled onto his back and laid shamelessly, hoping for a belly rub. The adorable behavior the dogs exhibited Tuesday is a far cry from what their handlers saw when the dogs first came to Two Bridges.

“We took these dogs that pretty much had no basic obedience to start,” said Mike Gould, dog program coordinator and shelter trainer for both animal shelters. “They pulled hard on the leash, they’d never sat. Jake … was a very aloof kind of dog, who is now super-affectionate, super-loving, a super-focused dog most of the time.”

CAPT. JAMES BAILEY, right, and Sgt. Kyle Canada, left, stand with inmates Norman Palmer and dog Melvin, right, and Dustin Campbell and dog Jake, left, who are part of the newest program at Two Bridges Regional Jail, a 10-week program to foster and train dogs in basic obedience so that they are ready to be adopted by the public.

CAPT. JAMES BAILEY, right, and Sgt. Kyle Canada, left, stand with inmates Norman Palmer and dog Melvin, right, and Dustin Campbell and dog Jake, left, who are part of the newest program at Two Bridges Regional Jail, a 10-week program to foster and train dogs in basic obedience so that they are ready to be adopted by the public.

Now the dogs have a list of commands to which they respond.

“It’s just taking dogs who have never really been in a home environment before, never gotten the time and love and really the patience that it takes to train a dog, and putting them with these guys who truly care about them and work hard with them,” Gould said.

10 weeks of work

Inmates Dustin Campbell and Norman Palmer worked for 10 weeks with the dogs.

“When we first got Melvin, he wanted nothing to do with us,” Palmer said. “Now, obviously he’s wandering around here trying to get everyone’s attention.”

When not in training, the dogs roamed free in the jail’s dorms and common rooms, spending nights in their own designated doggy room. They also had access to fenced-in yards.

Campbell and Palmer said having the dogs at the jail made their time incarcerated pass easier. Other inmates who perform work at the jail enjoyed coming back to their housing unit at the end of the day to play with the dogs.

Two Bridges Jail Capt. James Bailey said that, at first, the program’s concept seemed nerve-wracking.

“You think about bringing dogs into a jail environment. There’s a lot of things to think about (regarding) what can go wrong,” Bailey said. “We kind of looked at it with a different view — of what can go right.”

Bailey said the dogs have made for a much calmer environment for the inmates. There is now plans to expand the program to include female inmates and to also increase the number of dogs to six.

“We’re here to help (inmates) be better community members because the reality is, when they walk out the front door after getting released, they are becoming a part of the community again,” Bailey said. “Honestly, I can’t be more pleased about how it’s gone.”

Getting inmates involved in a program that benefits their self-esteem while helping the community, “I just think it is amazing,” Bailey said.

Campbell and Palmer were sad to see the dogs go, but Campbell, who was due to be released Wednesday, said he hopes to adopt a dog of his own.

Bailey said information about the dog training program will be available on Two Bridges Regional Jail website, where visitors can track the dogs’ progress.

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