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One inmate and veteran trains comfort dog for another local veteran

Training is part of project hope. (Source - Brittany Jacob)
Training is part of project hope. (Source - Brittany Jacob)(Brittany Jacob)
Updated: Oct. 30, 2018 at 5:52 PM CDT
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VIENNA, IL (KFVS) - A group of dogs from Project Hope Shelter in Metropolis, Illinois are bringing hope and comfort to local veterans. But their mission actually began with the veteran who helped train them.

“We taught them ten basic commands and a couple of tricks, rollover, dance, whatever," said Robert Hunter, inmate at Shawnee Correctional Center. “What they taught us goes well beyond that.”

Four dogs graduated from the Shawnee Wellness Assistance Therapy Training (SWATT) program on Oct. 30.

“It’s like being in the service when you know what your mission is," Hunter said. "We all had a mission.”

Hunter took special pride in this mission. He served in the U.S. Army. Now these service dogs trained by him and his fellow inmates are going to veterans in need.

“For veterans like myself the stress of the civilian world can sometimes be slightly overwhelming,” said James Robertson, a Marine.

Robertson is one of four veterans gifted with a new furry friend. His dog’s named Floyd.

“Being a veteran, I’m used to just doing what I need for my country, and I don’t expect anything back, and the fact that there’s something here that is just being given to us is quite heartwarming,” said Robertson.

At home, Robertson is looking forward to relaxing by the river with his new dog.

“This dog will serve me well, and it’ll be a great emotional companion,” said Robertson.

Floyd’s time at the prison also left its mark on his handler.

“It has given me more hope. More of a believer,” said Hunter.

“When I see that the populous still cares about their military still cares about their veterans, it makes me feel good inside knowing that we’re not fighting for a lost cause, or we’re not fighting for a silent cause,” said Robertson.

The next group of dogs will start training with inmates at Shawnee Correctional Center in December. If you’re a veteran interested in this program, visit Project Hope Humane Society’s Facebook page or email Angela Galbraith at angela.galbraith@illinois.gov.

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