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Prison Puppies

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Felicia Dunn, right, and Austin Herard of Animal Rescue Front gather puppies they transported from Mississippi at the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk on May 10. The puppies, which came from Hope Animal Sanctuary in rural Mississippi, will go to the Maine Correctional Center to be trained by prisoners in the Paws in Stripes program.

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Stephanie Kelley carries Gilligan, left, and Guinness after they arrived at AWS in Kennebunk on May 10. The puppies from Mississippi will be trained by prisoners for six weeks before being offered for adoption.

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Gilligan gets accustomed to his new pen in Kennebunk after arriving on a bus from Mississippi. The puppies would only be there for a few days to be checked by veterinarians.

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Tim Riley walks with Everest (formerly Gilligan) through a courtyard following a training session at the Maine Correctional Center. Riley works in the Paws in Stripes program, a partnership between the prison in Windham and the Animal Welfare Society.

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Riley works with Everest during training session at the Maine Correctiional Center in Windham. Riley has only been at the prison since January, but he has been incarcerated for nearly half his life.

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Everest, who doesn't like to be held, lets Riley carry him during one of the training sessions.

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Only inmates at a certain privilege level can apply for the puppy program, and the participants go through a strict screening process that eliminates anyone with a history of violence or cruelty to animals. Each puppy has a primary handlers and multiple assistants.

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Michael Gagne gets kisses from one of the puppies before a training session. Gagne, who grew up in York County, is serving a seven-year sentence for a string of burglaries, and he has a history of similar crimes dating back to his teenage years, a history he said is tied to abuse and addiction. "We're in this place because we harmed people, but we're hurting too," Gagne said. "These little fragile lives give me courage."

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Gagne works with Everest during one of the weekly training sessions organized and run by AWS staff members. After spending six weeks at the prison, the puppies return to the shelter for adoption.

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    Prison Puppies - Derek Davis/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Gagne gets Everest to stand on an inclined platform during a training session. Kim VanSickle, an AWS trainer, said the puppies from the prison program tend to be better behaved than other young dogs their age.

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    RIley uses a treat while working with Everest. He has been an assistant in the past, but he was the primary handler for the first time with Everest.

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Gagne plays with Lacey, one of the six puppies being trained at the prison. Recovery has not been easy for him, Gagne says, but he compared working with the puppies to therapy.

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Inmate Jeremiah Dowling seperates Lacey from Everest after the two puppies started playing during a training session. The prison hosts four to six groups of puppies each year.

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Everest gets his neck scratched by Riley after completing a task during training.

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    Riley carries Everest during a training session. "You don't have to put on a tough-guy role," Riley said about the program. "I talk to them like they're little babies."

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Riley, left, and Gagne walk with Everest to the gymnasium for a training session. The inmates share a room with the puppy and attend obedience classes for six weeks.

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Riley, left, and Gagne team up to coax Everest through a tunnel during training. Animal training programs exist in correctional facilities across the country, and proponents say the benefits go beyond a dog learning how to sit and stay.

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Riley holds up Everest's graduation certificate after he completed the six-week program. "Hopefully whoever gets him has kids," Riley said. "He'd be good with kids." Due to the prison's confidentiality policy, he didn't know that Everest had already been identified as a fit for a family with four kids, including one with autism.

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Timothy Riley holds Everest after he performed a task. "I know I'm helping the dog, but the dog doesn't know how much he's helping me," he said.

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Wrapped in his Santa Claus blanket, Everest sits with Riley in his cell before his transfer back to AWS.

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    Prison Puppies - Derek Davis/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Riley takes Everest out for the last time at the prison. Aside from puppy training, Riley does landscaping work around the prison, and he planted a row of yellow and orange marigolds in the yard near his housing unit.

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    Prison Puppies - Derek Davis/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Riley holds Everest before saying goodbye at the Maine Correctional Center on June 25. At first Everest liked his space, Riley said, "Now, he likes to fall asleep in your arms."

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    Prison Puppies - Derek Davis/Staff Photographer | of | Share this photo

    Everest is carried by Riley one last time on the puppy's last day at the prison.

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    Prison Puppies - Press Herald photo by Derek Davis | of | Share this photo

    Riley won't watch as Gagne says goodbye to Everest, after they spent six weeks training him at the prison.

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