The hound dog had been abandoned as a puppy on an ailing street in St. Louis. The teen was 4 when his mother was murdered. His father was in prison for a violent crime. He relied on himself to survive a world driven by meth, heroin, drug dealing and stealing. Now 17 and lviing at the Hogan Street Juvenile Regional Youth Center, he is training several rescued dogs through Loosen the Leash, a new nonprofit program in the state rehab facility that houses some of Missouri’s most serious juvenile offenders, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The program teaches teen offenders the fine details of dog training. Patience, respect, praise, empathy, and control win over disobedient dogs and are the tools the teens must use to build their own second chance at a future. Loosen the Leash was founded by Cindy Vickers, a dog trainer who was given seed money by a developer responsible for many Wal-Mart shopping centers. She was inspired by the Prison Pet Partnership Program of Washington state, which matches dogs with inmates and has expanded into other services for ex-offenders. Lewis Mueller of the Missouri Division of Youth Services said Vickers’ program was a natural match for Hogan Street, where teens work through emotional and physical scars that led them to commit irrational, sometimes violent crimes.