CHEYENNE – Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution (WMCI) is expanding its Canine Training Program (CTP) by now partnering with International Hearing Dog, Inc. (IHDI). WMCI will now have two CTP programs that meet the needs of the community while simultaneously providing educational and rehabilitative opportunities to the inmates housed there.
Since beginning WMCI’s first canine training program in 2014, they have successfully trained over 350 dogs and 40 handlers through their intensive seven-month certification program. The Preparing Adaptable Companion K9 (PACK) program is currently in partnership with Black Dog Animal Rescue in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Black Dog Animal Rescue provides dogs for the program where they are trained and evaluated using components of the American Kennel Association’s Canine Good Citizenship Test. After successful training, socialization, basic obedience, behavior management, manners enhancement and evaluation, dogs graduate and are put up for adoption.
Three master-level managers from the PACK program will be the first to pave the way for the new program, Preparing Animals with Service Abilities (PAWSAbilities). With a combined experience of over 21 years, these three handlers have collectively trained and certified 129 dogs.
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On April 28, 2022, the first of three puppies arrived at WMCI to be paired with one of these experienced handlers to begin a year or more of initial training before returning to IHDI. Upon their return to the IHDI, the canids will complete their final phase of training before being ready for service.
The PAWS’abilities program will involve the Goshen County community as puppies will occasionally leave WMCI to spend weekends with a foster volunteer to allow for an experience outside of the facility as well. As they prepare for service, these puppies will need to be comfortable with any environment they might enter.
The community of Torrington, including Mayor Adams, has fully supported this new program and the IHDI. Community members are encouraged to visit the IHDI website and apply to volunteer for Puppy Time on weekends. Volunteers will receive training to ensure puppies are progressing in their readiness for service.
Training dogs to help the d/Deaf did not exist until the early 1970s when a hard of hearing woman in Minnesota, Mrs. Elva Janke’s dog, died. Her dog had, quite naturally, alerted her to the sounds. When her dog died, Ms Janke contacted a local news station to see if they could find a way to train a dog to alert in the same way her previous dog had. Ms. Janke was eventually put in touch with a local Minnesota dog trainer named Agnes McGrath, and the rest, as they say, is history.
This developed into the first hearing dog training organization in the United States that quickly spread to international infamy, thus International Hearing Dog, Inc. was created.
Since its inception, IHDI has paired nearly 1,400 teams of d/Deaf and hard of hearing people with custom trained dogs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and across Canada. Additionally, the IHDI has helped support the development of similar programs in Norway, Japan and Australia. IHDI clients are among the 48 million Americans who experience hearing loss across all demographic groups.