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Prison inmates in central Wisconsin help train dogs for veterans

WAOW Television

A new program in Central Wisconsin is putting some of our favorite four-legged friends behind bars.

But that short stint in prison will mean a lifetime of benefits for veterans who need help.

The program is called Paws for Patriots, and it's a partnership between Patriot K9's in Wausau and Redgranite Correctional Institution in Waushara County.

Patriot K9's, which helps train service dogs for veterans, has placed five puppies with inmates vetted for the task of raising the puppies.

"We thought it would be good for the men in the prison, as well as for Patriot K9's, because we have this need for puppy raisers," said Lani Rethaber, Patriot K9's Executive Director.

The puppies will stay with the inmates 24/7 for the next year as they train them to eventually be placed with veterans.

For guys like Anthony Dotts, who's been locked up more than three decades, the chance to train these puppies was a no brainer.

"I think it's great to be able to give back. If he can live up to the potential I think he can, and go out there and affect someone's life in such a positive way, I feel like I've added and helped a little bit," Dotts said.

A constant companion is a nice change of pace for these guys, but it doesn't come without its challenges.

"They say it's like a newborn. Absolutely. The two o' clock potty trips, the three o'clock in the rain, the chewing on everything, it's absolutely like having a newborn. But I love every minute of it," he said.

And perhaps no challenge will be tougher than when puppies like Chi are grown and ready to go to their forever home.

"Seeing him go, and knowing he's finna to go out there and do something positive is going to make it a little easier," Dotts said.

And for Rethaber, who makes the 90 minute drive to the prison once a week, the program has exceeded his expectations.

"They're doing everything I'm asking them to do to a T, which I don't normally see to be quite honest. I think in the long run, this is a lot of work in the beginning, but in the long run, I think this will be a very good program for Redgranite as well as Patriot K9's," Rethaber said.

Asked to describe the program, Rethaber simply said, "It's a win-win!"

Patriot K9's has five puppies placed in the program this year, and hopes to double that number next year.

If you're interested in learning more about Patriot K9's, or would like to raise a puppy yourself, you can find more info at https://patriotk9s.org/.

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