Inmates in jail and dogs about to be euthanized don't typically cross paths. But at the Atlanta Fulton County Jail, inmates and dogs, both destined for a difficult road ahead, are finding love and compassion in one another.
These Atlanta inmates are participating in the Canine Cellmatesprogram. Dogs are paired with inmates and are trained as service dogs, while the inmates get an important lesson in responsibility. The program's Executive Director Susan Jacobs Meadows says, "The dogs actually become therapy dogs in this program, we just don't tell them that."
The inmates gather in a large room for daily training sessions with the dogs. Vandez McCloudy is one of those inmates. At 18 years old, this is his fourth stint in jail. He works with a dog named Bentley.
"I trained him to give me his paw, crawl, roll, stay, sit down," says McCloudy with pride.
Watch the video above to see Bentley performing his tricks.
Twenty-six year old Teddy Teshone is paired with Heidi.
"I never had a dog. It's a first for me. Heidi is laid back. Very patient. Smart. Loving. Mature. She's everything. She's just great," says Teshone.
The dogs are pulled off the euthanasia list from local shelters. They live with the inmates for months, their crates at the foot of their bunk. Schedules stress training and discipline, both for the dogs and the men.
The inmates agree that perhaps more than one life is saved through this program.
"She don't judge me, like people does. I know she loves me. All day. Every day," says Teshone who now wants to be a dog trainer.
It's the last place you'd look, to find soul shifting transformation, to find abiding love. But inside the jail, for every life saved, is a life changed.
Here at the USA TODAY network, not only do we want to provide you with the current events of the day, but also a little dose of inspiration while you're getting your news fix. Inspiration Nation is our way of providing you with that jolt of good news to bring a smile to your day. For more great stories like this, click here.