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Five Dogs from Mercer Program Get Paired with Veterans

Tags: Mercer
November 17, 2020 12:00 AM
By: DOC Staff

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"Don't Say Good-bye, Say Good Journey"

Five of SCI Mercer's Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs (GAMSD) began the next phase of their journey on Nov. 1 when they were paired with their recipient and began their career as service dogs. The dogs are trained through GAMSD and inmates in the Mercer dog training organization: Incarcerated Veterans Training Dogs For Veterans.

Two dogs from the original group and one dog from the second group of dogs to enter the program were paired, along with two service dogs who were sent to Mercer for remedial training.

Two of the original pups, Semper Fi and Tilly (TJ), were part of this pairing. They have been with Mercer since Oct. 4, 2019.  They learned a lot over the last year, including alert to anxiety, anger, scents, PTSD and nightmares, and they are able to provide support for their recipients and will also pick up almost anything and give it to them.

At 15 months old, Charlie will be the youngest GAMSD to be paired. He was only at Mercer a short time, but he was a lot of fun.

Five dogs from SCI Mercer's dog training program

The SCI Mercer GAMSD Graduates: (left to right) Charlie, Tilly (T.J) and Semper. GAMSD services dogs Blue and Rooney are at the far right.

The recipients spent a week at a Grove City hotel learning about Guardian Angels, service dog laws, their service dog and how to handle their dog. The recipient teams went to restaurants, department stores and the Avenue Of Flags in Hermitage for public access training. At Walmart, the teams passed their pairing test with flying colors.

On the first night of being paired, Semper Fi alerted on low blood sugar of his recipient and alerted to his recipient's anxiety twice the next day. On the second night, Tilly nudged her recipient out of a night terror. To cap the week off, the recipients were shown a video full of photographs of their dogs that had been taken over the last year, given a gift bag with a congratulations card sign by the inmate handlers and staff, a 5x7 photograph and photo book of their service dog. The recipient teams then sent a video back to the handlers thanking them for all the hard work they have put into their dogs and how grateful they are to have the dog.

Rooney and Blue were also paired on November 1st. They were already full-fledged service dogs when they entered the program and were only with Mercer a short time. They only needed a little remedial training before their pairing.  Rooney alerted to his recipient having a night terror on the second night and promptly woke him up out of it.

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