MARYVILLE, Mo. Patience is a virtue. At the Maryville Treatment Center, it's a requirement to prepare inmates and their new canine friends for the outside world.
For the past five weeks, the New Nodaway County Humane Society has worked with the center to bring peace and responsibility to its inmates through dogs in need of help.
“We're a treatment center, so it kind of goes along with our mission to have guys go out in a productive way and this kind of shows them responsibility,” Lisa Nun, coordinator for the Maryville Treatment Center, said.
Reserved for inmates with good behavior and who expect to be released within the next year, the Puppies for Parole program has made its way to the prison after a year of paperwork and talks.
Having arrived in April, canines Ms. Dutchess, Honeybun and Laurie were mangy, rambunctious and in desperate need of love. Also needing attention and a close bond while incarcerated, Ronald Grippando and Brian Tooley are among the few inmates in charge of training the dogs.
“She still can be stubborn at times if you don't have a treat for her. But she's learning, she's getting there,” Mr. Tooley said, of his golden Labrador, Honeybun.
The usual activities: teaching basic commands, tricks and running.
“She usually pulls us around the track and slows down after a couple of miles,” Mr. Tooley said, with a laugh.
With similar programs in areas such as St. Joseph, the Humane Society and prison had time to research what worked and what failed. Feeling they have fine-tuned it to their needs, a new sense of community and therapy has appeared to have found its way through the prison, as the dogs are kept in a kennel with the inmates.
"Actually, it's affected the whole floor. The whole floor has just calmed down with the dog, it's made a difference,” Cindy Nelson, director for the New Nodaway Humane Society, said.
Though Mr. Tooley and Mr. Grippando may be in charge of the dogs' training, each floor has taken in each dog as its own.
"If I'm having a bad day or something, she always brings it up,” Mr. Grippando said. “I noticed a lot of inmates, too, she'll lightens their day."
In a few weeks, the inmates will have to say goodbye to the rehabilitated dogs so they can be adopted, though more are expected to go through the training in the coming months.
Watching their progress over the past month, Mr. Grippando said he marvels at how far his once-mangy and anti-social dog has come.
"She didn't really care for playing or interaction with us or playing fetch or even really taking treats. Now, it's like 'If you pet me, I'll do anything.,'” he said.