Licking, Mo — A Missouri prisoner rehabilitation program that trains dogs at Missouri’s South Central Correctional Center (SCCC) has donated Zeus, a trained dachshund with hearing loss to the Missouri School for the Deaf in Fulton, Mo, with the adoption fees paid by the offenders in the program.
Born deaf, Zeus the dachshund was given to an animal rescue shelter as a puppy, but it appeared he would not be adopted. The
shelter reached out to SCCC, which participates in the Department of Corrections’ “Puppies for Parole” program. The program pairs rescued dogs with offenders at prisons throughout the state for training in order to make the dogs more adoptable.
When the shelter approached SCCC about taking Zeus in for the 8-week training session, the handlers were more than willing to accept the challenge of helping the dog overcome his hearing challenges.
Generally, the training consists of a 2-month period in which the dogs learn verbal commands and general obedience. The participants in the program and the dogs go through the rehabilitative process together, with the trainers gaining vocational skills and learning responsibility.
In preparation for Zeus’ training, his handlers met with fellow prisoners with hearing loss at SCCC and learned sign language. They then devised a plan that would teach Zeus how to respond to commands with the use of sign language.
Since Zeus was unable to hear commands or dog whistles, the trainers figured out how to train Zeus by stomping the ground with their feet. He could feel the vibrations from the floor. Once he recognized what the vibrations meant, Zeus picked up one command after another.
Dog treats were also used as positive reinforcement because Zeus also suffered from severe anxiety. After training was complete, the trainers in the program reportedly decided they wanted Zeus to be sent to a school for the deaf so that he could help others.
Puppies for Parole does not receive state funding and is funded by donations only. For Zeus, the trainers raised their own funds to pay for the training and donated the adoption fees in order to make the donation to the Missouri School for the Deaf.
At the end of the 8 week training program, there is a graduation ceremony where the dogs are administered a K-9 Good Citizenship Test, which they must pass.
Since its inception, approximately 150 dogs have been saved from euthanization and have been adopted.