Prison Inmate Trains Dog To Help Autistic Boy

Convicted Killer Trusted To Work Directly With 9-Year-Old Boy In Dog Training

In a rare teacher-student role, a state prison inmate is working directly with a 9-year-old boy with autism as he trains a dog to help the child.

Colorado prisoners have trained hundreds of dogs rescued from shelters as part of a work program that began in 2002.

Now convicted killer Christopher Vogt, an inmate at the Sterling Correctional Facility, is training one of the first dogs to meet the needs of a child with autism such as Zack Tucker of Colorado Springs, the Denver Post reported.

Vogt's dedication to animals and skill with people have earned him such trust in prison that he is allowed to interact directly with Zack as the two work together with the boy's new dog, Clyde, a chocolate Labrador, the newspaper reported.

To teach each animal how to respond to its future master, the Post said, Vogt takes on the roles of the people who will receive the service dogs he trains. He used a wheelchair to train a dog to help a disabled individual and pretended to be a boy with cerebral palsy and a victim of rape.

Zack, who has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, easily gets confused and then breaks down in tears of frustration.

So, while training Clyde, Vogt would regularly put his hands to his face and cry just as he was told Zack does, the Post reported. He's taught Clyde that when Zack does it, Clyde is to interrupt him by nudging him in the face with his nose.

During a two-hour training session, Zack eagerly followed the soft-spoken Vogt's instructions and never seemed distracted, the newspaper reported.

Zack tightly gripped Clyde's leash in one hand and pointed with his index finger: "Clyde, sit."

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