At a Prison's Dog Graduation, Lots of Pup and Circumstance

It's been a tough road, but a fresh crop of inmates is leaving Gulf Correctional Institution with a new leash — um, lease — on life.

The four-legged inmates comprise the 20th graduating class of Developing Adoptable Dogs With Good Sociability (DAWGS) at the institution's Forestry Camp in Florida. For the past eight weeks, (human) inmates have instructed the shelter pups in obedience training, WMBB News 13 reports. More than 200 dogs have received diplomas since the program began in 2009.

The newest canines, many from rough backgrounds, graduated Wednesday with impressive accolades: They're crate-trained, housebroken, spayed or neutered and up to date on vaccinations. Now Dennis, Chicklet and all the other dogs will head to forever homes in Maine, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Georgia and Florida.

WMBB spoke with one of Dennis' handlers, who teared up as his trainee walked through the prison gates for the last time.

"That's the part that hurts the most," Mark Whited told the station. "But knowing that he goes home to a better place, somewhere that he's going to be loved unconditionally for the rest of his life ... it doesn't bother me so much."

Watch the pup and circumstance in the heartwarming video below, and visit WMBB's story for more on the DAWGS program.

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