Wounded veterans benefit from inmate-trained service dogs

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SAN DIEGO -- Marine Master Sgt. James Horner and his service dog, Saturn,  have been living together for the last three months. But Monday afternoon was Saturn’s official graduation from the POOCH - Prisoners Overcoming Obstacles and Creating Hope - program.

Master Sgt. Horner says he had almost given up hope due to a severe case of PTSD.

Because of Saturn and the life-changing training he received from inmates at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility and Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs, everyday tasks are now a possibility for Master Sgt. Horner and his family.

“When you have PTSD, I couldn’t go to Costco. Now I go to Costco with Saturn,” said Horner. “My kids got their dad back. More importantly my wife got her husband back."

The program gives back, but it also brings hope to those doing the training.

“I just wanted everything for me, and I felt like the world owed me everything. Having experienced this and meeting the people the dogs go to, I’ve seen that the world isn’t about taking, it’s about giving to others,” said inmate Edward Goodwin.

The POOCH program is helping our wounded warriors, but dogs like Star are also helping those who suffer from autism.

“Snuggle offers a child with autism stability just in case the child gets up in the middle of the night,” said Star's trainer during a demonstration.

The program is currently run in the D facility of the prison, but it will soon be expanded to those inmates who show positive change.

“The waiting list for these type of dogs is astronomical, and the demand far exceeds the supply," said RJDCF spokesperson Robert Brown, adding that today’s inmate could be tomorrow's neighbor.

“We are going to reenter society. Should we reenter society with no skills, or should we reenter society with the understanding of accountability and respect?” asked inmate Anerae Brown.

Saturn's trainer was recently released from prison and helping train horses.