Hall of Fame College Basketball Coach Bobby Knight, center, threw his support behind the POOCH Service Dog Program. From left are POOCH Coordinator and RJDCF Community Resource Manager Robert Brown, Fire Chief Mario Hernandez, Bobby Knight and Warden Daniel Paramo.

Hall of Fame College Basketball Coach Bobby Knight, center, threw his support behind the POOCH Service Dog Program. From left are POOCH Coordinator and RJDCF Community Resource Manager Robert Brown, Fire Chief Mario Hernandez, Bobby Knight and Warden Daniel Paramo.

By Robert Brown, Community Resources Manager
Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility

Service dogs for wounded veterans and children with autism will be getting some training with help from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJDCF) has created the Prisoners Overcoming Obstacles & Creating Hope (POOCH) Service Dog Program.

Trinity is one of the canines being trained at R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility.

Trinity is one of the canines being trained at R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility.

The POOCH Service Dog Program is a community partnership with the nonprofit San Diego based Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs, Inc., and RJDCF.  The POOCH Service Dog Program allows inmates to raise and train service dogs for wounded warriors and children with autism.

The dogs graduating from the POOCH Program will be Assistance Dogs International (ADI) certified. The RJDCF staff is also very excited about the program due to the opportunity to take the dogs in POOCH Program home on the weekends to socialize the dogs to new and different environments that they will not be exposed to at the institution, according to those close to the program.

“The POOCH Service Dog Program is the perfect nexus of benefiting the local San Diego community by providing service dogs for wounded warriors and children with autism, saving dogs from euthanasia, giving our staff the opportunity to become a volunteer for the program, and providing incentives and rehabilitation opportunities for our inmate population,” said Warden Daniel Paramo.

A wounded warrior who lost her leg due to her service in Iraq, and suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, will be receiving one of the POOCH dogs named Dante (black lab).

An inmate works with Dante.

An inmate works with Dante.

“Without her service dog, she would not be alive today, and that every day is a struggle, but having her service dog keeps her going,” according to the organization.

Hall of Fame College Basketball Coach Bobby Knight is a big supporter of the program.

“There has been nothing more fulfilling in my career than supporting programs like these helping our wounded warriors,” Knight said.

State Senator Marty Block, former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, San Diego State University Basketball coach Steve Fisher and many more came out in support of the program at an event hosted at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

For more information about the POOCH Service Dog Program, contact Robert P. Brown, Community Resources Manager, e-mail robert.p.brown@cdcr.ca.gov, or call (619) 661-8654.

Fire Chief Mario Hernandez speaks to the crew at the fire house at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility as well as some of those from Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs.

Fire Chief Mario Hernandez speaks to the crew at the fire house at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility as well as some of those from Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs.

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