Rescue dogs Zac, Lola, Archie and Winnie marked their new lives as service animals for war veterans, after graduating from a unique Corrective Services NSW program on Thursday morning.
Inmates at Bathurst Correctional Centre have trained more than 40 abandoned dogs through the Defence Community Dogs program, which assists former soldiers suffering physical and mental health problems including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Two veterans have already received dogs, David Schell receiving Lucky 12 months ago and Jessica Beck receiving Bentley six months ago.
“Lucky wakes me up when I have nightmares and drags me out of the shops when I have anxiety,” Mr Schell said.
“Lucky has changed my life and has made a huge difference.
“He’s definitely got me out into society more. Before I was staying at home a lot.
“It’s a brilliant program, changing and saving so many lives.”
Ms Beck said her dog Bentley helps her out in shopping centres, at university and to turn on the light to wake up from dreams.
“Honestly, he’s saved my life. I was going through some hard times,” she said.
“I love him so much and he’s actually a bit overweight at the moment.
“I don’t think I could cope without him now, without his support.”
Bathurst Correctional Centre governor Mark Kennedy said the dogs have been trained to the highest standards.
“The dogs have been trained here and looked after by the inmates,” he said.
“This program has been running in Bathurst for some time and it’s a chance to give back to the community, as the inmates would take the dogs to schools, shops and nursing homes.
“Dogs are not unique to jails and there is a lot of benefit of dogs to inmates. They spend all their time with the dogs, when they’re being trained.”
“We currently have eight canines being trained here at the jail and we are looking to expand to 10.”
One inmate said the program has been beneficial to his time at jail.
“It’s helped me learn new way to do things and to have patience,” he said.
“I’ve enjoyed it a lot, especially the graduation days.
“I’m proud to do this and it’s great when you see the change it makes.”