Dogs bring Virginia inmates needed companionship

Virginia News

STAUNTON, Va. (WRIC) — Loneliness is something that plagues many people, especially inmates who are isolated from the rest of society. To help combat this, Middle River Regional Jail in Staunton has started a therapy dog program.

According to WHSV, the program has been active for about three months and John Lilly, with Middle River Regional Jail, said the program has already had a positive impact on inmates.

“We have some who may not be as fond of dogs or may not actually want to get involved, but even those folks like to come out and kind of be on the fringe and watch,” Lilly said.

Stacey Payne, the owner of Positive Paws in Stuarts Draft, told WHSV sometime’s the dog’s intuition is better than anything she could teach them.

“The dogs actually choose the people that need them the most and it’s really cool to watch them. You’ll have a group of people, some of which don’t want to be bothered with the dogs at first, and then the next visit, maybe they’ll be bothered with them. But the dogs actually know and they will go right up to the people and they will nudge them and pet them,” Payne said.

It’s not only the dogs giving encouragement — Lilly said he has seen this program has inmates showing each other encouragement.

“If one of the folks is having a little bit of trouble getting one of the dogs to do the certain trick that they are trying, you hear encouragement, ‘Hey, just try it again, you can get it,'” said Lilly.

Lilly told the station he wants to keep this program around as long as possible.

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