I have a “Brig Puppy” living with me right now. Canine Companions for Independence uses inmates at the military prison in San Diego to train assistance dogs — thus the term Brig Puppy.
Inmates who achieve excellent ratings during their stay at the brig can request to be allowed to raise and train a dog from CCI. There are usually four to six dogs at the brig at any given time. Each dog is assigned to a four-person-team of inmates for the eighteen months the dog is in training. The success rate of brig puppies graduating and being assigned to a person in need of a service dog exceeds the rate of those trained by the volunteers like me. The normal rate of graduating dogs is about 40%, where the brig program graduates about 60% of the puppies they raise.
Every four months, volunteers are asked to take a brig puppy into their home for two weeks. Because of the sterile surroundings of a prison, the dogs need to leave periodically in order to get socialized in real world environments. Simple things like riding in a car, going to a grocery store, or accompanying a trainer to a restaurant are learning opportunities that the puppy doesn’t get in the brig.
So that’s Balter in the picture above. He’s with me for TWO WEEKS. Hurray! And he is wonderful; the sweetest boy you’d ever want to meet. My daughter Stephanie is raising and training Belle, who is Balter’s sister. And then there’s our dog Tawny, who I’ve written about many times and is part of the 60% that didn’t make it. But you’ll never hear any complaints from me about that.
These three dogs absolutely love each other. They sleep together with paws draped over one another, their faces pressed against each other, and constantly play together. After they’ve been apart, even for only five minutes, you cannot believe the antics and frolics of their reunion. It’s a sight to see. Here is a picture of the three of them (Clockwise from top: Balter, Tawny, and Belle)
Anyway, I thought I’d share these pictures and let you know how much fun I’m having with these beautiful dogs, especially Balter. I just hope the MP’s don’t come knocking at my door, though, with handcuffs!