Prison dog training program helps corrections officer’s family

Michigan corrections officer Rick Benson and his wife, Ericka Benson, struggled for months to find a service dog for Ericka.

That changed when John Hassen, a fellow officer they met through Michigan Corrections Organization, introduced them to Stiggy’s Dogs, a program that allows Michigan prisoners to train service animals.

Now, Ericka and her service dog, Bravo, are navigating life together.

“If it hadn’t been for mine and John’s union activism, this may have never come to be,” Rick said.

Dog training programs give inmates and staff a common goal and sense of community, John said.

“They both come together and think of different ideas,” he said.

Corrections officers have different opinions of the programs, but John, Rick, and Ericka say they’ve seen the benefits first-hand.

“When it comes to programs like this mixed with corrections, there’s always going to be a variety of opinions,” Rick said. “I would just hope that, through my personal experience in seeing what happened between Bravo and my wife, I would say that these programs are beneficial to the community … I would hope that staff continue to understand the importance of these dogs to people that need them.”

Members, do you have an inspirational story? Let MCO know. Email Communications Director Anita Lloyd.

*Some content in this video is courtesy of the Michigan Department of Corrections. Thanks, MDOC.