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Puppies in prison -- that's how "canine companions for independence" raises dozens of guide dogs each year.
Ten correctional facilities across the country have inmates training assistance dogs -- one is near tallahassee.
Several certified puppy raisers in our area travel to gadsden county to help the female prisoners and their dogs.
Channel Three's Kathryn Daniel takes us along for one such trip.
Marietta Birdsell and Debra Grey live very different lives.
Birdsell's a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel.
Grey's serving 10 years for grand theft..
They're both puppy raisers.
Trading tips and eventually leashes, as they'll each take the others' dog for training.
Sometimes for hours, sometimes for weeks.
"I can't even, it's great. It's unbelievable to have her come from the outside and be able to have that kind of trust."
Birdsell calls Grey her peer.
Whose dog is better trained.
"I hate to admit that, but that's actually very true."
But Grey can't take Humphrey in a car, to the store, subject him to a doorbell.
Birdsell -- and a group of other volunteers do it for her.
"Our program here would not be as successful as it is without our outside socializers."
"Their graduation rate is about twice CCI's national average."
"That's perfect, everybody let's go."
Stacey Kemp is raising her 6th and final dog as an inmate.
She's going home in 11 months -- and hopes to raise one there.
Kemp says this has given her a peace -- and a connection with her kids when they visit.
It's often also a jumpstart into a job.
"Grooming facilities things like that, the girls learn all of that here. We have a vet tech program."
That's what Christina McKeown hopes to be this time next year.
The 31 year old grew up in Okaloosa County.
Her dad was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base.
Her parents now live near her prison
and visit often.
McKewon's puppy raising is a big source of pride for them.
"They love it. They see, I'm a recovering drug addict so they see the old me, coming back out, before i started doing the drugs and stuff."
The dogs go everywhere with their inmate handlers.
Chow hall included.
The prison has two "dog" dorms.
The puppies sleep in crates at the foot of their handlers' bed.
"Doug" is Patricia Banks' fifth puppy.
She says they'll often get updates on their graduated dogs.
Some even visit.
"That means everything that really does. We'll see a picture of our recipient that got our dog. That's great. Cause you know that dog went on to help somebody."
It's time for humphrey to head out.
"Where is he going today?"
For a car ride to a restaurant...ONeil will stay for a training tune up.
"I feel sometimes i'm leaving a diamond in the rough here and when i get him back you get closer and closer to the polished stone."
In doing so -- Birdsell is loaning much more than a lab.
She's given Grey her self esteem back.
"To be able to come and sit and talk with me and have a conversation with me as a person, as a person of value and worth."