The Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution (WMCI) is expanding its canine training program (CTP) whereby it will now partner with International Hearing Dog, Inc. (IHDI). WMCI will now have two CTP programs assisting the needs of the community while simultaneously providing educational and rehabilitation opportunities to the inmates housed there.
Since the beginning of WMCIs first canine training program in 2014, they have successfully trained over 350 dogs, and 40 inmate handlers in their intensive seven month certification program. The Preparing Adaptable Companion K9’s (PACK) program is currently partnered with Black Dog Animal Rescue in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Black Dog Animal Rescue provides canines for the program where they are trained and evaluated using components of the American Kennel Association Canine Good Citizenship Test. Upon successful training, socialization, basic obedience, behavioral management, manner improvement, and evaluation, the canines graduate and are put up for adoption.
Three master-level handlers of the PACK program will be the first to pave the way for the new program, Preparing Animals with Service Abilities (PAWSAbilities). With a combined experience of over 21 years, these three handlers have collectively trained and graduated 129 dogs.
On April 28, 2022, the first of three puppies arrived at WMCI to be paired with one of these experienced handlers to begin a year, or more, of initial training before returning to IHDI. Upon their return to IHDI, the canines will complete their last phase of training before becoming ready for service.
The PAWS’ abilities Program will involve the community of Goshen County as the puppies will occasionally leave WMCI to spend weekends with a foster volunteer to allow experience outside the facility, as well. As they prepare for service, these puppies will need to be comfortable with any environment they might go into.
The community of Torrington, to include Mayor Adams, has been fully supportive of this new program and IHDI. Community members are encouraged to visit the IHDI website https://www.hearingdog.org/be-part-of-ihdi/volunteer/weekend-puppy-raiser.html and apply to become a volunteer for weekend puppy time. The volunteers will receive some training to ensure the puppies are moving forward in their preparation for service.
The training of dogs to assist the d/Deaf did not exist until the early 1970s when a hearing-impaired woman in Minnesota, Mrs. Elva Janke’s, dog passed away. Her dog had, just naturally, alerted her to sounds. When her dog died, Mrs. Janke reached out to a local news station to see if they could find a way to have a dog trained to alert in the way her previous dog had done. Mrs. Janke was eventually connected with a local dog trainer in Minnesota by the name of Agnes McGrath, and the rest, as they say, is history.
This developed into the first hearing dog training organization in the United States which quickly spread to international infamy, thus International Hearing Dog, Inc. was established.
Since their inception, IHDI has partnered nearly 1,400 teams of people who are d/Deaf and hard of hearing with custom trained dogs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and throughout Canada. Additionally, IHDI helped support the development of similar programs in Norway, Japan, and Australia. IHDI’s clients are some of the 48 million Americans who experience hearing loss across all demographics.