A family volunteer petted a puppy who would be spending the weekend with them on June 27, 2021 at the closing ceremony of the 12th semester puppy project in Hamada, Shimane Prefecture. (Mainichi / Kenichi Kayahara)
HAMADA, Shimane – A guide dog training center in this western Japanese city with a program to raise guide dog candidate puppies with prison inmates is looking for volunteers to look after the animals at home over the weekend.
The Puppy Project is a social contribution project in the 12th semester. Puppies are entrusted to inmates at the Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Program Center, a prison adjacent to the Japan Guide Dog Association’s Shimane Asahi Training Center, for rehabilitation through breeding. So far 66 puppies have been raised – 14 of them work as guide dogs for blind or visually impaired people today.
Volunteer “weekend puppy walkers” play an important role in helping guide dogs develop social skills that are needed at home and on the street. On the weekends they look after them on behalf of the inmates, take them with them and drive them in vehicles. Although they don’t see the inmates face to face, they keep each other informed of the puppy’s condition through the breed diary.
This photo shows a diary an inmate kept at the Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Program Center in Hamada, Shimane Prefecture on June 27, 2021. (Mainichi / Kenichi Kayahara)
Previously, the organization relied more on families who had experience of taking in dogs. In order to expand the scope, they are now calling on the residents of the three cities of Hamada and Gotsu in the prefecture of Shimane and Hiroshima to cooperate.
The closing ceremony for the puppy walkers of the 12th semester took place on June 27th. Three Hiroshima families and one from Hamada said goodbye when four Labrador Retrievers, with whom they had spent weekends for eight months, returned to the association.
A family of four in Hiroshima, who was accepting a puppy for the first time, said, “We were a little concerned but looked forward to seeing the puppy grow. We went to the beach and river with them every weekend, and our family bond was strengthened, too. ”
Regarding the inmates who communicated with them through the diaries, the family said, “We could see how much they loved the puppy.
The four animals were transferred to the Kanagawa Training Center on July 6th.
Puppy Walker applicants must be able to pick up and drop off puppies every Friday afternoon and Monday morning at the Shimane Asahi Training Center in Hamada, the Hiroshima office in Asakita Ward, or the Hiroshima Seifushinto Interchange area on the Sanyo Expressway. Dog owners and people living alone are not eligible to participate. The application deadline is mid-September. If you have any questions, please contact the training center at 0855-45-8311.
(Japanese original by Kenichi Kayahara, Hamada Local Bureau)