It is an unusual place to form a bond.

“I know the animals needed love. I knew that I was able to provide that. Maybe learn some responsibility.”

Inside Larch Corrections Center, Demetrius Route is teaching Izzy, a Shepherd mix, the skills and manners that will help her find a home.

“This is my fourth dog that’s going to get adopted. So, three already adopted, and this is my fourth,” Route said.

Route and the other men in this room were hand-picked to train dogs rescued by the Humane Society for Southwest Washington – a mission to make them more likely to be adopted.

“It’s definitely a win-win. The dogs get a second chance. The handlers get the opportunity to learn some life skills.”

Simple commands, like “sit” and “stay.” Learning to trust and listen to their handlers who, in turn, listen to them.

“It takes as much for me with him, me listening to him. Because he’s been through a lot, too. So, if I can understand everything he’s been through, it helps us both out.”

Christopher Baker has served three-and-a-half years for violating a no-contact order. Like the other handlers, he’s close to finishing his sentence. But for right now, he spends 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with Max.

“I feel like I’m doing something better with my time, as far as being able to go home and take care of my kids, my family the way I care for him,” Baker said.

Larch launched the dog program back in August. So far, 15 dogs have come through. Every single one has found a home.

“I just wrote her adoption letter, so I’m not [sure] if she got a home a home yet, but I’m pretty sure she’ll get a home. She’s a nice dog,” Route said.

Route has served 12 years so far.

“I committed a crime when I was 18. I’m not proud of it. Uh…it was murder,” Route said.

With about a year-and-a-half left to serve, he sees the dog training as a transition.

“It give me the satisfaction also of knowing I can care for someone other than myself. And that’s big for me because I’ve taken so much away, I want to give back now,” Route said.

A tale of redemption.

“You see such growth in them. The minute they finally get a dog to start doing something, it’s like a light bulb for them.”

They find something in each other.

“Right now, he’s my best friend. So, he’s pretty much all I’ve got right now,” Baker said.

Man and dog…

“This shows us that people care, you know? And that’s important for guys like us,” Route said.

With the hope of a second chance.

“As long as you keep the right foot forward, keep your mind, keep my head up every day, look forward to every day,” Baker said. “Because I know…I’m not coming back to this place.”