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Making an Impact: Pendleton Correctional Facility adds dog to mental health unit to support patients

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Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-14 13:26:40-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Inside the Pendleton Correctional Facility, they’re taking a four-legged approach to healing.

Harper was raised at the Pendleton Correction Facility and now serves inmates making their lives just a little bit better.

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Dr. Christine Liedtke said Harper is already making a huge impact with her patients inside the prison

“They see her coming and you just see their posture relax,” Dr. Christine Liedtke said.

“The only term I can use is that its heart warming. It makes me melt at times,” Cody Collins said.

Harper, the yellow lab, is already making a big impact inside the prison.

“We have more patients attending services now because they want to see her and they're also getting more of out of treatments. It’s really cool to see,” Dr. Liedtke said.

Dr. Liedtke said Harper is the newest addition to the mental health unit inside Pendleton Correctional Facility.

“She can tell when a patient is sad or anxious and walk up to them and sits on their feet, and patients juts naturally start petting her and you see them relax,” Liedtke said.

Harper was being trained through the prison’s Indiana Canine Assistance (ICAN) program.

“She’s an I-tried,” Liedtke said.

ICAN is a program where inmates train dogs to be service dogs for people with mental and physical disabilities.

“She flunked the community portion,” Liedtke said. However, she is still a graduate of the program.

To no one’s surprise Harper is a little too friendly to be a service dog.

“I can kind of see how that maybe wouldn’t go over well for someone who has chronic medical conditions or physical conditions but she’s perfect for us,” Liedtke said.

“It was really mind boggling that something like this could even be possible in prison,” Cody Collins said.

Collins has been in prison for about 10 years. He said being around harper gives him a sense of normalcy.

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Cody Collins said Harper makes him feel lighter and makes it easier for him to open up in group discussions.

“She’ll sometimes climb up into my lap, put her arms on my shoulders to give me a hug and its very heartwarming like I said sometimes it makes your heart melt. For me it brings back that sense of humanity like I am still human,” Collins said.

Collins said Harper makes him feel lighter but it’s not just him, he’s noticed the same among his peers as well.

“It’s been a big difference. I have noticed guys including myself be more vocal in group, contributing more, have more to say, opening up more,” Collins said, “dog is a man’s best friend, so it’s been wonderful.”

Harper goes home at night with Dr. Liedtke and gets to be family dog. She’s been with the mental health unit for about a month.