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March 8, 2013

‘Dogs of Lexington’ premieres to crowd

OKLAHOMA CITY — Scruffy black rescue dog “Sarge” and the affectionate rescued Yorkie “Harley” charmed a packed theater this week at the premiere of the new documentary “The Dogs of Lexington,” which tells the compelling story of the Friends for Folks inmate dog training program at the Lexington Correctional Center in Lexington.

Sarge and Harley are two of the stars of the new 43-minute documentary about the rescued dogs paired with inmate trainers, with interviews with many other human volunteers involved in the program.

“When I saw the rough cut of this film, I cried 11 times,” said Louisa McCune-Elmore, executive director of the Kirkpatrick Foundation that provided a grant to make the documentary, which was privately screened Tuesday by the foundation at the Noble Theater of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. “Get the Kleenex ready because (Sarge is) a big star in this movie.”

Inmates at the Lexington Correctional Center are taught to train rescue dogs mostly from Norman’s Second Chance Animal Sanctuary, which are then placed with families, elderly, veterans or at facilities like the veterans center. 

“It’s a win-win-win situation,” said Dr. John Otto Jr., a Norman veterinarian who took over the veterinarian volunteer portion of the program in 1996 from veterinarian Dr. Grant Turnwald, who started it as the second prison dog program in the nation in 1990. “It’s a win for the dogs. It’s a win for the inmates. And it’s a win for those who adopt the dogs.”

Sarge became the newest canine addition to the Norman Veterans Center in October. He was trained specially to provide unconditional love to the veterans who live there.

The schnauzer/terrier mix was described as a hyper “licker and a nibbler” of people, a former growling terrier mix almost euthanized after being returned to shelters by two different families and rescued by Second Chance and being chosen for Friends for Folks. By the time he completed training by inmate Bill Miller, he was affectionate to everyone around him — and still a little bit ornery. It was the 18th dog trained by Miller and was his favorite.

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