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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Patricia Krenwinkle trains 'Prison Pups' for disabled

Former Family member trains 'Prison Pups' for disabled
Nov. 5, 2007

- We all know about the great work done by service dogs assisting the disabled. You might be surprised to know that some of those dogs are trained by inmates in a California prison -- including a former member of the Manson family.

You can find unconditional love in the most unlikely of places -- the California Institution for Women. "I've seen a change in ev More..erybody," said Prison Pup program sponsor Carmen Mewes. "Everybody that comes into the prison and sees a dog. It's kind of like, 'Oh, these are people, too,'"

In August 2002, four puppies were sent to prison to be trained by inmates as service dogs for the disabled. "It gives you a reason to wake every morning, and keep moving on," said inmate trainer Pat Krenwinkel.

Pat has been with the Prison Pup program from the beginning. Since the initial four, over 100 dogs have been trained to do the simple tasks many people take for granted, like getting mail or turning on and off the lights. After training, the dogs leave the prison to be with their new family, never to be seen again by the inmates.
But on the night Eyewitness News was there, a slideshow allowed Pat to see her dog, Allison, at a home in New Jersey with Liam, a young boy with cerebral palsy. The images moved her to tears. "I can't change my past. I can't change anything that happened yesterday," said Pat. "But doing what I do with this little dog, or with Allison -- that dog can carry, and maybe make somebody's future different and better and wonderful."
Her past is how many people know Patricia Krenwinkel. As part of the Manson family, she was convicted of seven counts of murder and is serving a life sentence.
She's now training her seventh dog, and says the program allows her to know what she's doing in life has some worth.
She also knows the impact these dogs can have on other inmates. "My god, they come up to you, and they just say, 'May I pet your dog?' And then what transpires from there immediately is a story of home," said Pat. "You're transported to a world where there's just a little bit of laughter.

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