Inmates Train Puppies

Casey Shulte, an inmate at Fort Dodge Correctional Facility, holds Nelson, the 4-month-old Leader Dog he is training, on Sunday.

Jesse Major, The Messenger via AP

FORT DODGE (AP) — A blind man is thanking inmates at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility for their work in training puppies that become guide dogs.

Len Quinn said he greatly relies on his 3-year-old dog that he said has saved his life on a number of occasions. He said the definition of a hero is someone who does "something special, who changes a life." He told the inmates that they were his heroes during a Sunday speech at the fifth annual Puppy Days at the facility.

Quinn said vision loss significantly changes someone's everyday life — he or she can no longer read a newspaper, see his or her children or grandchildren and will never experience a sunset again.

"It doesn't leave much left," Quinn told the inmates. "But because of you, the light has been turned on. Because of you, we are able to walk the streets and go to stores."

Quinn is one of more than 550 people who have benefited from dogs raised by inmates under Warden James McKinney.

McKinney said the dogs also help inmates in their rehabilitation, because it helps them learn responsibility and compassion in training the animals, and how to handle loss when the dogs must leave for service.

"The one thing most places don't realize is that inmates may have done some bad things, but it's our job to make sure they are better people when they walk out that door," he said. "This program does that."

John Cowles, an inmate who trained 13-month-old Gabby, said he expects to shed some tears when he says goodbye to her.

"When they gave her to me, I started crying," he said. "And I know when she leaves, I'll be crying again."

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