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PEWEE VALLEY, Ky. (WDRB) -- Meet Forest, Fergie, Frisco, and Freedom. At 10 weeks old, the pure-bred labs are learning the basics of becoming future Paws with Purpose service dogs, but they're having some play time too. They're all trained by inmates at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women.
Elizabeth Miller is serving a 23-year sentence for manufacturing meth. She sees dog training as a way to give back after her drug problems. Others are also trying to turn their lives around, one dog at a time.
Miller says, "I didn't realize animals could do that....it's really good to be a part of it, just a little part of it."
Murl Boston is serving 30 years for drug charges. She says, "Right now at this age, we work on sits, downs, and touch and that's just some of the basic commands we teach them and watch."
The dogs have a great time rough-housing with each other outside in a fenced-in area of the prison. Michelle Murphy, who is serving 19 years for robbery charges, says she wants them to learn, "Out here to obviously play well together, but we also try to train out here...a huge distraction with the grass, the dirt, obviously they love dirt."
WDRB is following the four puppies as they become service dogs in a couple years for people with disabilities.
You may remember, there were 10 pups, but Paws with Purpose selected two boys and two girls. When we first saw them at six weeks old, they were just about eight pounds each. Now they've doubled in size and they're as energetic as ever. The rest of the puppies went to other organizations.
Elaine Weisberg, a volunteer with Paws with Purpose says, "We looked at temperament testing, how they were confident, how they carried themselves, if they wanted to pick things up and walk with them or go and retrieve them."
In return for training the dogs, the 12 inmates get private rooms.
Murphy says, "Everything your dog needs you keep in your room, leashes, collars, water bowls, everything they need is up here."
When talking to her puppy Forest, Miller says, "He's just....he's a momma's boy, yes he is."
The inmates are also moms and say taking care of a dog will help them become better mothers to their own children once they're released. And while many seem happy here, they say there are tough times.
Miller says, "If I get really down and out, I'm missing my children or my family, then I have to pull way and have someone babysit him for a little bit...because they feel it. I didn't realize they feel it, but they do."
Murphy says, "Obviously I'd rather be at home, but it's really not that bad."
These inmates have the freedom to take the dogs outside within prison gates and train them in the campus-style facility.
With such long sentences to serve, the ladies say they have nothing but time to train these dogs at all hours.
In a year, the dogs will be able to turn the lights on and off and learn how to use their mouths to open the fridge.
Miller says, "Here in the prison you can't have any write-ups. You got to stay on good behavior and I was really blessed to get in here."
After hours of training and running around, by the end of the day, the dogs want nothing more than to sleep. And, they sleep in kennels next to the inmates.