The Norman Transcript

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March 8, 2013

‘Dogs of Lexington’ premieres to crowd

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA CITY —

“We can take a dog to (Friends for Folks for training) … then it becomes an adoptable dog. Everybody wins,” Stout said.

National award-winning disc-dog trainer Fairchild is also a case manager at Lexington. He volunteers his time to coach inmates on how to train the dogs.

“There’s not much love in a prison,” he said about what inmates get back from training the dogs.

The inmates say repeatedly through the film that although before their prison days they took from others, now they get a chance to give back to the community.

“(The dogs) are giving us purpose,” inmate Todd Saunders said. “This program is really about giving back. I know my family is proud of me for giving back.”

“It’s a two-way street here,” said John Otto Sr., who credits his son for coming up with a way to rehabilitate hardened criminals. “It will sometimes take the hardened heart and soften it.”

The program costs taxpayers about $1,500 a year in expenses. Other expenses of food, shots and other pharmaceuticals have often been donated. But its proponents said it would cost much more if the program went away in recidivism.

“(The inmates) develop a skill that can be marketable,” said Susan Savage, former Oklahoma secretary of state.

Marva Perry Griffin, daughter of former inmate and dog trainer Marvin Perry, said she watched the program change her dad and teach him patience. The documentary is dedicated to her father, who trained the Oklahoma “hero” search-and-rescue dog “Star.”

Star, a black Labrador, was credited for saving the life of an Alzheimer’s patient who was lost for nine hours. Star found the woman in 20 minutes — something helicopters, other search-and-rescue dogs and emergency personnel were unable to do.

Marvin Perry was paroled in 2008 after being recognized for the discipline, compassion and training skill that made Star a valued search-and-service dog. Star is older now and lives with one of the program’s original trainers.

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