Merry and Dagny are not customers, business partners, or vendors; they are yellow Labrador service dogs in training in the Canine Partners for Life program at the State Correctional Institute of Somerset. At the time of the visit, Merry was 15 months old and Dagny was only 10 weeks.
Dog trainers Kathy Bell and Jeff Nagle brought Merry and Dagny to NPC on January 11 to share a little about the benefits of the Canine Partners program and how it thrives at SCI-Somerset.
Following the presentation, which was attended by more than 30 NPC employees who were happy for the opportunity to interact with the dogs, a check for over $400 was given to Kathy and Jeff to help support the program at SCI-Somerset.
The donation was a result of the fundraising efforts of our Government Sales team — Esther Alvarez, Jim Conway, Ed Detwiler, Bruce Gochnour, Annette Latoche, Lori Negley, Frank Swalga and David Zajdel — as part of the company’s 2016 Christmas Tree Decorating Contest that generated over $4,000 in total donations for area food banks and non-profit organizations.
“It’s amazing what these dogs can do,” said Kathy, who worked as a counselor and housing unit manager for 18 years at SCI-Somerset before retiring.
Canine Partners for Life, based in Cochranville, PA, has been dedicated to training service dogs, home companion dogs, and residential companion dogs for over 25 years. These dogs assist individuals who have a wide range of physical and cognitive disabilities. CPL is funded entirely by donations.
So, how does an inmate become a puppy handler?
“There are stringent criteria to be a puppy handler,” Kathy said. “Inmates have to have good conduct and maintain good conduct.”
SCI-Somerset became a good fit for training service dogs because inmates have 24/7 access to take care of these dogs. SCI-Somerset first partnered with CPL in 2015. For more, read The Tribune-Democrat’s article SCI-Somerset inmates train future service dogs.
Jeff has been a volunteer in the Canine Partners program since early 2016. He is part of the IT staff at SCI-Somerset.
“It really is a win-win situation for everybody involved,” said Jeff, whose wife, Esther, works at NPC and was part of the Government Sales team that made the donation. “We have 21 handlers (at SCI-Somerset) right now and we have six dogs.”
For more information about the Canine Partners for Life program, visit www.k94life.org.