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Inmates battling addiction get an unlikely ally: a puppy

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Michael Casey, The Associated Press


Published Friday, January 11, 2019 1:24AM EST

BOSCAWEN, N.H. — Caitlin Hyland’s New Hampshire jail cell looks like those of many of her fellow inmates, featuring family photos, a few books and a cot. But one thing sets it apart: the cage on the floor for a 4-week-old puppy.

Hyland, a 28-year-old from Concord, New Hampshire, who is serving time for a drug conviction, is one of four inmates at the Merrimack County jail who are training puppies for the next month. In a partnership between a group called Hero Pups and the jail, two male and two female inmates, who are all in the jail’s drug treatment program, will raise the puppies for the next two months. They will eventually be handed over to military veterans and first responders who are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and other challenges.

“It feels like a second chance,” Hyland said of being chosen to raise the chocolate Labrador retriever mix puppy. She must feed the dog three times a day, walk it every two hours for 20 minutes and is giving it obedience training. The dog stays with her around the clock.

“It’s just amazing to have that unconditional love,” she continued. “I am learning so much about finding the balance. You have to love yourself before you can appreciate the love something else is giving you.”

Justin Martin, another inmate, says his dog has given him a sense of purpose.

“Knowing he is going on to help someone else is totally huge for me,” said Martin, 33, of Barnstead, New Hampshire. “With me and my sobriety and recovery, it’s just really a life-changer. He is really changing two lives.”

The program is the first of its kind in New Hampshire but mirrors similar programs around the country in which inmates raise and care for animals, typically dogs.

NEADS World Class Service Dogs works with inmates at seven facilities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island to train service dogs, while Leader Dogs For the Blind works with prisons in Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan in raising puppies that eventually become guide dogs for people who are blind. At one program at the Erie County Correctional Facility in New York, inmates raise pheasant chicks that are then released into the wild.

Supporters of the programs say the puppies get a dedicated trainer while the inmates learn to be more caring, compassionate and enterprising — skills that can help them once they are released. Several studies suggest that puppy programs in prisons and jails have reduced anxiety and depression among inmates and increased morale among staff. Some groups say the programs have lowered recidivism rates, though it’s unclear what role the puppies played.

In New Hampshire, Merrimack County Department of Corrections Superintendent Ross Cunningham said he hopes the puppy program will help inmates undergoing drug treatment to stay clean.

“It’s teaching them some responsibility. It’s teaching them some structure,” he said, adding that he appreciates how a dog trained in a jail returns to the community and becomes part of a family.

Laura Barker, the board president at Hero Pups, said she had long wanted to work with prisoners, who typically have “dramatically higher rate of success” in training the dogs. Unlike volunteers outside of prison who must juggle other commitments, inmates can more intensely focus on the animals they are training, and they spend the bulk of their time with the dogs, she said.

“These dogs go on to help people,” said Barker, whose group has trained 40 dogs since 2016. “Being able to contribute something positive to the inmate participants just adds another layer of awesomeness.”

The arrival of the puppies at the jail’s minimum security unit last week has reverberated well beyond the four inmates that care for them. On any given day, all 30 inmates in the unit have an opportunity to interact with the dogs and rubber toys can be found in the television room and other common areas. The animals prancing about, snoozing or yelping offer a sense of normalcy in a facility that often feels cold and tense, inmates said.

“It has had a positive impact. When I look on security cameras, I see puppies running around,” said Assistant Merrimack County Department of Corrections Superintendent Kara Wyman. “That lifts the staff.”

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LIFESTYLES

Nobody would give this teen with autism a job, so he started a business

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A 17-year-old Australian teen with autism started his own business cleaning garbage bins after he was rejected for other jobs.

“I searched and applied for jobs for two years and did not get one interview,” Clay Lewis told CTV News Channel from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

As of January, his business, Clay’s Bin Cleaning, has made more than AUS$6,000 and has roughly 70 clients.

He charges AUS$10 for the first bin and AUS$5 for each additional bin. He regularly offers free bin cleaning to local charities.

“I’m very proud of him,” his mother Laura Lewis told CTV News Channel. “I knew that he could do it.”

She added that employers were unable to “see past their own judgments” and made “unfair assumptions” about Clay’s competency because of his disability.

Clay said that he is looking forward to attending his high school prom and may put some of his earnings toward funding a trip to Abu Dhabi to watch his first Formula 1 race.

Lewis said that Clay’s story has given hope to a lot of people, particularly parents of children with autism.

“All Clay is doing is living a 17-year-old’s ordinary life: working, going to school, having a girlfriend and hanging out with friends,” she said.

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Meet Jelly Bean, the deaf canine contender for World’s Most Amazing Dog title

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CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from CTV London’s Sacha Long


Published Friday, February 22, 2019 7:50PM EST

A deaf Ontario dog is in the semi-finals of the World’s Most Amazing Dog competition, an interactive Facebook Watch show where dogs compete for a US$100,000 prize.

Jelly Bean, a three-year-old Australian cattle dog who lives in London, Ont., can catch and pass a ball with his front paws and jump on a stranger’s back. He follows the instructions of his handler, Melissa Mellitt, by sight because cannot hear.

“He is so highly intelligent,” Mellitt told CTV London. “He has no idea that he’s deaf. He doesn’t care. He’s just as happy as any other dog.”

Mellitt adopted Jelly Bean from the Deaf Dog Rescue of America when he was five months old. He has since gone on to travel across Canada as a professional stunt dog and works with Mellitt as an assistant to help rehabilitate fearful dogs.

“We knew that he had this potential,” she said. “This is exactly what I knew he was going to be.”

Mellitt hopes that Jelly Bean’s performance in the competition will help shatter some of the stigma around deaf dogs, who are often believed to be ill tempered and incapable of being trained. Mellitt said breeders euthanize many of them at birth, but she believes that Jelly Bean’s inability to hear is his “cool factor.”

If Jelly Bean wins the competition, Mellitt said that she plans to give half of the winnings to the Deaf Dog Rescue of America.

Viewers of the World’s Most Amazing Dogs competition get to vote on who should move to the finals.

“I think he could go all the way,” Mellitt said.

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Funeral held for sailor in V-J Day Times Square kiss photo

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NEWPORT, R.I. — The sailor photographed kissing a woman in Times Square at the end of World War II was mourned Friday at a funeral in Rhode Island.

George Mendonsa’s funeral was held at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, and he was buried at St. Columba Cemetery in Middletown.

Mendonsa died Sunday after he fell and had a seizure at an assisted living facility, his daughter said. He was 95 and leaves behind his wife of 72 years.

Mendonsa kissed Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant in a nurse’s uniform, on Aug. 14, 1945, known as V-J Day, the day Japan surrendered.

The two had never met.

Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photo of the kiss became one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century. First published in Life magazine, it’s called “V-J Day in Times Square,” but is known to most as “The Kiss.”

Another photographer, Victor Jorgensen, who was in the Navy, also captured the moment in a similar photo. The moment has been shared widely and is often seen on posters.

Several people later claimed to be the kissing couple, and it was years before Mendonsa and Friedman were confirmed to be the couple.

Mendonsa enlisted in the Navy in 1942, after high school. He served on a destroyer during the war.

Mendonsa was on leave when the end of the war was announced. When he was honoured at the Rhode Island State House in 2015, Mendonsa said Friedman reminded him of nurses on a hospital ship that he saw care for wounded sailors.

On Monday, a statue depicting the kiss in Sarasota, Florida, was vandalized. The phrase “.MeToo” was spray-painted on the leg of the statue.

Friedman said in a 2005 interview with the Veterans History Project that it wasn’t her choice to be kissed.

“The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed,” she told the Library of Congress.

She added, “It was just somebody really celebrating. But it wasn’t a romantic event.”

Friedman fled Austria during the war as a 15-year-old girl. She died in 2016 at age 92 at a hospital in Richmond, Virginia, from complications of old age.

After the war, Mendonsa became a commercial fisherman, like his father, and worked until he was 82. He died two days before his 96th birthday.

Survivors include his wife, Rita; and his children, Ronald Mendonsa and Sharon Molleur, and their families.

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