Prison inmates train service dog for soldier with PTSD

Posted at 5:26 PM, Jul 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-01 19:30:42-04

People needing service dogs often find themselves waiting years for help.

Thursday night, TODAY’S TMJ4 took you inside prison where inmates train service dogs at no-cost for people who truly need them.

33 inmates inside the Oshkosh Correctional Institution spend the majority of their days training puppies that will eventually go to people with special needs. It's where Andrew Dzurick found his sidekick, Jazz.

Dzurick is a veteran and suffers from PTSD, anxiety and depression.

At one point, the anxiety was so bad, Dzurick avoided going out in public.

“I had gone three years without going into a Wal-Mart when there’s a bunch of people around,” he said.

Dzurick and his girlfriend looked into getting a service dog three years ago, but struggled to find help.

"We probably applied with 10 different organizations throughout the country and had every organization put us on a wait list,” Dzurick’s girlfriend, Bridget said. “It was defeating.”

Eventually, Dzurick came across a specialized service training dog program taking place inside the medium security prison in Oshkosh.

7 months after signing up and attending classes with inmates, Dzurick got to take Jazz home.

“She’s made the world of difference from the very beginning,” Dzurick said.

Jazz is trained to comfort Dzurick during anxiety attacks.

Dzurick demonstrated how Jazz will come to his aid if he started shaking his legs.

Jazz has also eliminated Dzurick’s fear of being in crowded places.

“Instead of me walking around and thinking all eyes are on me, everyone is focused on the dog,” Dzurick said.

“Journey Together” and “Occupaws" are the two organizations providing dogs to inmates, who spend months teaching them all the basics.

Inmates like Brian Presberry say they grow attached to the dogs and that it’s difficult to give them up once they are trained and ready to go to a new home.

"I got into the program because I wanted to help people out,” Presberry said. “I wanted to give back to the community because as an inmate, we've all taken from the community."

“Occupaws” provides guide dogs to the visually impaired for free. You can read more about them here.

“Journey Together” provides service dogs to people suffering from PTSD. You can read more about their organization here.