Meadville Tribune

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February 11, 2013

Puppies teach responsibility, patience behind bars


MEADVILLE — How it all started

Sister Pauline Quinn grew up as Kathy Quinn, but her childhood was far from joyous. Problems at home forced her to become a chronic runaway. And since no facilities existed in the early 1950s for teenage runaways, Quinn was sent to an adult psychiatric hospital where she spent most of her childhood.

Molested, demoralized and defenseless, she still remained strong. She found the only way she could socialize with the outside world was through a German shepherd, Joni, which she received from a Texas kennel. With Joni’s help, Quinn started to communicate with others. Yet, when Joni was taken from her, Quinn found she needed something in her life.

She turned to the comfort of a nun. And with spiritual advisors, she soon took her vows and the name, Sister Pauline Quinn.

Soon thereafter, Quinn reached out to Dr. Leo Bustard of the Washington State University veterinary program. She expressed her desire to “take animals into institutions to help those wounded by no fault of their own.” Bustard believed she had the desire and strength due to her earlier experiences, but many had their doubts.

Mental health institutions turned her down, but the Washington State Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor welcomed the idea. With Quinn’s desire, Bustard’s guidance, and the cooperative efforts of Washington State University, Tacoma Community College and the Washington State Department of Corrections, the groundwork was set for the Prison Pet Partnership Program. It has become a model for similar programs throughout the nation for the rehabilitation of offenders.

The Prison Pet Partnership Program has placed more 700 dogs as service, seizure and therapy dogs throughout the Pacific Northwest.

CPL provides more than 400 service dogs nationwide and to the U.S. Virgin Islands for an array of disabilities. Dozens of disabilities are addressed by CPL service dogs.

Though CPL uses volunteer puppy raisers in the community, the concepts and foundation of Quinn’s program enabled CPL to launch its version of a prison puppy raising program 11 years ago at the Maryland Correction Institute for Women. The program has since spread to prisons as local as Crawford and Erie counties.

Today’s next part of a two-part series will look at the responsibilities of the CPL volunteers, those of the inmate handlers and what the program means to all involved.

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