Published on YouTube, Oct 12, 2015 by Washington State Department of Corrections
Brian Henry had trouble readjusting to civilian life after suffering a traumatic brain injury during tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Henry, an Army veteran who was injured by IED and rocket explosions and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, says he has balance issues and gets anxious in crowds at home because suicide bombers were such a threat in Afghanistan. “I wasn’t even getting out of the house except to maybe smoke a cigarette and that would be it,” he said.
All of that began to change with the aid of Donner, a service dog who received special training in an unlikely place – Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen.
Through a partnership with Brigadoon Service Dogs, offenders in the veterans unit at Stafford Creek train the dogs in the foundational commands and socialization skills needed to become service animals for disabled veterans on the outside.
Washington’s prison system is one of only a handful nationally that houses veterans together. Stafford Creek houses around 130 veterans as part of a special program launched by DOC about two years ago.
“They (offenders) are so right on target at teaching these dogs because they are teaching these dogs for their fellow veterans and it makes them feel like they are giving something bac,” said Denise Costanten, founder and executive director of Brigadoon Service Dogs.
Henry said Donner has made a vast difference in his life. “He helps with balance. He helps me go out in the public. He can help me, like, remember different times, like medicine and things. He can help pick things up,” Henry said.
Even with Donner, Henry says he still has issues, “but to get out in the public and get back out to do things like that. Yeah, I mean, he’s helped tremendously. He’s done an awesome job.”