WASECA, Minn. (KMSP) - For nearly 10 weeks, a handful of puppies with a purpose have been trained by prisoners.
Now they're back in the Twin Cities, where they'll eventually become assistance dogs for people with disabilities.
"I already texted my husband. I said 'when I get home, we're going to eat in the backyard. Let the puppy run around. Maybe get some sleep tonight," volunteer Amy O'Keefe said.
For the last couple of months, these Labrador Retrievers have been at a prison in Waseca getting weaned from their mothers and learning to live on their own.
Now they're meeting the volunteers they'll be living with for the next 10 weeks, and the pint-sized parolees are lapping it up.
"You are mostly working on crate training, leash walking, manners, the basic foundations of training and then i work on sitting not destroying things," O'Keefe said.
When the dogs get a little older, they'll return to one of five prisons in Minnesota and Wisconsin for more intense training to become service dogs for people with disabilities.
Can Do Canines says it uses prisoners to train the puppies because they have time on their hands and its free of charge but the inmates get something out of the experience too.
"Their lives are pretty empty so having these dogs or puppies in their lives really improves the quality of their lives and pays back some of what they've taken from society," Can Do Canines founder and Executive Director Alan Peters said.
At least for the ride home, Amy O'Keefe's temporary houseguest, Uma, is back in lock-up.
But O'Keefe is excited for them to become partners in crime.
"It's a really selfish way to be unselfish because I get this really cute dog who then changes someone's life," O'Keefe said.
Can Do Canines says it costs about $25,000 to fully train each assistance dog. Their training usually continues until they are 16 to 18 months old before they are placed permanently.