Prison dog turns therapy dog at local nonprofit

Posted at 9:48 PM, Oct 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-03 06:03:11-04
Bear may look like your everyday man's best friend, but he has quite a past, much like many of the kids he spends his days with. 
After being abandoned by his owners Bear was adopted out by the Idaho Humane Society to the Idaho Corrections System as part of the IDAPI program, where dogs with behavioral issues are paired with inmates and receive training.
"To a certain degree Bear may have been sort of a lost soul when he entered the program, and I think he found his focus," said Steve Fields.
After successfully graduating Bear was placed as a therapy dog at the Hays House, a home for kids who are runaways, homeless, or victims of abuse or neglect that need a safe place to stay.
"Bear came from a program where I believe the inmates probably had a lot of the same needs that our kids do," said Fields.
They Hays House is where he first laid his big brown eyes on Rachel Lewis.
"Her and Bear's relationship was very special from the beginning. When I came in here you could tell that she really bonded with him," explained Suzanne Albert, a social worker, and therapist with the Idaho Youth Ranch. 
Much like Bear, Rachel said she was abandoned by her parents at the courthouse and sent to live at the Hays House.
"I was mad like why did you leave me here?  They didn't even say goodbye or anything," said Rachel.
When times were tough Bear always found a way to make things better. She constantly volunteered to be his caretaker and found solace in his company.
"Bear has helped me through a lot here," said Rachel. "Whenever I am sad he will know and he will come up to me and cuddle with me or I will pet him and he just won't leave my side," said Rachel.
Now, Rachel is living with a foster family, getting ready to graduate from high school, working part-time, and applying for colleges, and she said a big reason why she is where she is today is because of Bear.
"I come back whenever I can, whenever I'm not working, or not busy. I walk him and buy him stuff cause I spoil him a lot," said Rachel.  
The Youth Ranch said they are working with the Humane Society to get another therapy dog at the Hope Campus in Middleton, to be able to help even more kids like Rachel.