‘Lilly makes my time here as easy as possible.’

A paralyzed dog brings hope and support to an inmate at Bishop’s Fall’s Correctional Centre.

Victoria Battcock

Kyle had never been to prison before. According to the assistant superintendent Kelly Rowsell at Bishop’s Falls Correctional Centre, he thought his life was over and he would never get a job.

His real name can’t be used due to privacy concerns.

He did not realize when he signed up for a dog therapy program at the correctional centre, his life would turn around.

Paralyzed dog.
Assistant superintendent, Kelly Rowsell, brought her dog, Lilly, into the Bishop’s Falls Correctional Centre. The dog’s physiotherapy is also a therapy program for inmates.  Submitted photo.

Lilly is Rowsell’s dog. The six-year-old English sheepdog was injured in January. A piece of cartilage broke off her back and now juts into the dog’s spine, paralyzing her.

Since May, the 23-year-old has been learning new techniques from Rowsell and he spends every single day with Lilly. The goal is that Lilly will be able to walk by the time Kyle is discharged.

“I felt really bad for Lilly and I chose to take over,” Kyle said.

Kyle has two dogs at home so helping Lilly gives him comfort and helps him on his hardest days.

“She is a very nice dog,” said Kyle. “She makes me feel better and helps me with my anxiety. Lilly makes my time here as easy as possible.”

Rowsell prints off information about dog therapy for Kyle to go by. When Lilly first became paralyzed, Rowsell learned techniques to care for the dog. She passed this knowledge on to Kyle.

“I use exercise cords for muscle memory,” he said. “I have an exercise ball and I move her around to help her balance.”

Since May, Lilly has made tremendous progress.

“She used to be C-shaped and now she is a straight line,” said Kyle.

Rowsell says that sometimes he will invite other inmates to help him with Lilly, something he would never do before.

Dog water therapy
Water therapy is incorporated into Lilly’s recovery. Kyle learns new techniques every day. Submitted photo.

“She helps me break out of my shell,” Kyle said. “I am a very shy person.”

Other things that came along with the therapy for Lilly was grooming and clipping her hair.

“Now he knows how to groom dogs,” said Rowsell.

When Kyle discovered the skills he had, he groomed the dogs belonging to some of correctional centre staff. He also cut some of the inmates’ hair.

Rowsell says Kyle now has a new skill.

“Now he says, ‘gee, maybe I will be a dog groomer when I get out.’”

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