At the beginning of the year, SabeRex National Director of Business Development Bill Brainerd started training service dogs for a Tennessee-based nonprofit called Retrieving Independence. This group breeds, trains and places top quality services dogs with children and adults living with physical and mental disabilities. Dogs trained through this organization – mainly Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers -learn to help people dealing with physical disabilities, seizure disorders, and diabetes. Five dogs recently graduated the program, ready to assist their new owners, including Bill’s most recent trainee Prescott (pictured with Bill’s daughter Bailey).
Beginning as puppies, the dogs go through a 5-phase training program. The training starts in breeder homes and ends after training camp with the new owner and their family. In phase 4, Retrieving Independence partners with the Tennessee Department of Correction in a cooperative program called Serving With Canines. The dogs go to the Turney Center Industrial Complex outside Nashville, where inmates live, work and train with them. On the weekends, trained volunteers like Bill take the dogs to socialize and develop skills that can’t be done in the correctional facility. Bill and his family train the dogs between 2-4 weekends a month, often several weekends in a row. Volunteers usually house and train the dogs 1-2 weekends a month. Most dogs take about 18 months to train, depending on how quickly the dog picks up on things and what the dog is being specifically trained for.
Bill says he likes the fact that he is making a positive impact in the community, but the involvement and positive impact made by the inmates put this program over the top. He’s seen firsthand the attachment developed between these service dogs and the inmates who train them, and expects the upcoming graduation ceremony to be very emotional. Bill’s also proud to report that as a result of his involvement, his parents have recently joined the program as well!