Swap Gigs with Sterling Riggs: PAWS with Purpose Trainer
At the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women, the inmates behind these barb-wire fences and locked doors are doing hard time.
It's a place where the hands of time don't matter much. But if you take a stroll down to the Pine Bluff unit, you'll find a pair of inmates who are determined to help others.
Yukon and his trainer Covie McGuffie are inseparable. They met when Yukon was eight months old. Covie was eight years into her prison sentence for kidnapping and attempted murder.
The two are part of a program called "PAWS with Purpose."
The goal is to train service dogs to assist people with physical disabilities.
"Helping a person if they don't have the stomach muscles to get up. They help them get up and down, help then to walk, just a number of things," Covie told me.
They spend 24 hours a day together.
"He keeps you grounded and he teaches you patience and understanding and what it means to really be there for somebody," Cove explained. "It teaches you responsibility, how to put someone's needs above your own which is something a lot of us never learned until we came into a program like this."
Covie walked into the prison in 1997 and says by far this is the best job she's ever had.
"It's someone to share everything with, Covie said. "It's unconditional love which is something you never find in a prison setting. It's probably the most rewarding thing anyone could do."
But her work with Yukon is nearly done.
At years end, his training will be finished, and Yukon will be given to a person with disabilities.
"We actually get to meet the recipients... The disabled person he is going to and see just what kind of a difference he is going to make in their lives. So that makes it really rewarding," Covie said. "It also helps that there will be a little baby coming right after that."
The next dog gives Covie something to look forward.
She's up for parole in 2020. Until then, she plans to work hard to train another dog to make a difference.