Sierra, 24

Sierra, 24

Meet Sierra..

“I’ve learned it is a natural human thing to want to reach out, help, and uplift those in need. ”

Sierra, 24

Incarcerated: 9.5 years

Housed: Topeka Correctional Facility, Kansas 

Being incarcerated at 14 and growing up in the system, navigating life came with so many obstacles and challenges. I am blessed to meet so many well-intentioned women who take me under their wing and do their best to help me realize my potential and guide me in the right direction. This experience is still ongoing to this day. I’ve learned it is a natural human thing to want to reach out, help, and uplift those in need. Whether it’s emotional, spiritual, or social. I’ve heard over and over how God works in mysterious ways. He works through those you’d least expect. Every day I wake up, I decide to be a better version of myself than the day before. Because of the grace and love shown to me, I choose to be someone who can extend that grace and love to others. I thank God daily for showing me mercy and allowing me to become the blessed young lady I am today.

 

Aaron, 33

Aaron, 33

Meet Aaron..

“Taking care of puppies is like taking care of children; you have to be mature, responsible, and available at all times outside of being able to train puppies.”

Aaron, 33

Incarcerated: 9 years

Housed: San Quentin

I’ve been in San Quentin for three years now. When I heard they would have a dog program, I quickly applied for a transfer and was fortunate enough to be accepted. My dog’s name is Artemis, but I call him “Artie” for short, and he came to San Quentin at four months old. Artie came from Canine Companions, a service dog program that raises puppies for a year to become service dogs for someone in need. Being in this program has taught me compassion, awareness, and accountability. Taking care of these puppies is like taking care of children; you have to be mature, responsible, and available at all times outside of being able to train puppies. This has also helped residents like myself and staff communicate more normally versus the “us vs. them” old communication style. Canine Companions is an agent of change in San Quentin, and I’m glad to be a part of it. We have great camaraderie among all the trainers, staff, and San Quentin. When people see the dogs, it’s a morale booster for everyone, and I want to help advance this program in any way I can.

 

Jared, 40

Jared, 40

Meet Jared and Artemis..

“Introducing dogs into an environment that, at times, could be incredibly depressing and hopeless has brought about a transformative change in our community. Simply put, it has brought us all a touch of humanity.”

Jared, 40

Incarcerated: 10 years

Housed: San Quentin

Canine Companions is a non-profit that has been providing service dogs to people in need at no charge to them. These highly trained service dogs will help their lucky recipient navigate their life by performing many tasks, including retrieving dropped items off the floor, hitting elevator buttons, turning on and off lights, or simply being there to wake them up during a nightmare. We receive these dogs for training at 16 weeks old and have them for one year. My dog was one of the first puppies here, and his name is Artemis. Artemis will leave me for professional training in April of this year. While at San Quentin, we teach the puppies 32 commands and proper social etiquette, including house manners and how to greet people and other animals. We also train them to walk correctly on a leash, even in a wheelchair. The impact these puppies have had on not only the ones directly involved but the population as a whole is staggering. Introducing dogs into an environment that, at times, could be incredibly depressing and hopeless has brought about a transformative change in our community. Simply put, it has brought us all a touch of humanity. We started with two dogs in April of 2023 and have since grown to six dogs. I am so grateful to be a part of this life-changing program and hope others get involved. We are behind these walls for the crimes we have committed, and I am awarded this opportunity to give back in an enormous way.

 

Chase, 28

Chase, 28

Meet Chase and Wendel..

“He is changing so many lives in here, he has definitely changed mine, and I can’t wait until he changes somebody’s life out there as a service dog.”

Chase, 28

Incarcerated: 9 years

Housed: San Quentin

Wendel is a 13-month-old black Lab Golden Retriever mix. He is a service dog in training with an organization called Canine Companions. I am one of Wendel’s San Quentin Puppy Program puppy raisers. We received Wendel when he was a four-month-old puppy and were tasked with caring for, socializing, and training him on fundamental cues. We are also paired with outside puppy raisers that give Wendel the socialization we can not provide behind these walls—things like going on car rides or to the grocery store. So far, Wendel has done excellent in the program and brought so much positivity to the incarcerated population and the staff here at San Quentin. He is changing so many lives here; he has definitely changed mine, and I can’t wait until he changes somebody’s life out there as a service dog. Wendel brings humanity to many lives, and his journey is just beginning.

 

Travis, 33

Travis, 33

Meet Travis and Wendel..

“It is softening my heart in a hard place.”

Travis “Milkbone”, 33

Incarcerated: 11 years

I’ve been at San Quentin for three years, and since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the dog program. My dog, Wendel, is one of the first to arrive here. Although I haven’t been training him since he first came here, I definitely care about him and his future as a service dog. Many inmates in this program have their reasons for wanting to be a part of this program. As for me, I have a nephew who is mentally disabled and in foster care because of his parent’s battle with addiction. Since I’m a replacement trainer, it’s more like Wendel is teaching me. I usually just reinforce what he already knows and bond with him. It is softening my heart in a hard place. He graduates on April 5th and then goes on to professional training. It’ll be sad, but I know he is going to help a person like my nephew, and I helped play a part in that. Thank you to Canine Companions for bringing their program here.

 

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