A service dog like Pax doesn't just impact one person's life, rather a whole network of people. Watch Iraq Vet Bill Campell return to Bedford Correctional Facility to meet Laurie Kellogg, the inmate who trained Pax.
[♪ dramatic music ♪] [State of New York Department of Correctional Services] My name is Judy. My name is Diamond. My name is Jamie. My name is Lanetta. My name is Laurie. Teresa. My name is Linda. My name is Roseylee. My name is JoAnn, and we've been in here for 7 months. I've served 20 years. I've been incarcerated since 2004. I've been here 18 1/2 years. I've been incarcerated since I was 16. I'm 25 now. I have 18 life sentences. I got arrested in 1989 when I was 16, and I'll be 36 in January. I go home in 77 days. (clapping) [PAX] [♪ dramatic music ♪] [Narrated by Glenn Close] In the fall of 2007, Bill Campbell, a veteran of the Iraq war, who had come home with 100% disability due to concussive brain injury was given a dog, a beautiful yellow Labrador named PAX, by and organization called Puppies Behind Bars. PAX had been trained in the Bedford Hills Women's Correctional facility, by an inmate named Laurie Kellogg. The presence and support of this gifted service dog was giving Bill back his life. [Bill Campbell] Whoever coined the phrase, "War changes you," they're absolutely right. When I got back from Iraq, and there was very little about myself that is the same. I served in the National Guard from 1980 to 1990, and then after 911, I re-enlisted to go to Iraq, and then ended up in Bagdad in 2004. I felt that being an older, more experienced veteran, I might be able to bring home somebody who might not otherwise come home. Regarding my post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury diagnosis, my psychologists tell me that it is caused by traumatic and horrific events, as well as extended exposure to life-threatening situations. Traumatic brain injury is caused by a direct impact to the head or some kind of blast effect. I saw and experienced terrible things in Iraq that I wish no one would ever have to experience. I've experienced what it is like to be near a car bomb when it goes off, and it is indescribable. All I can say, if you were to experience it, you will not forget it and will likely re-experience it in your dreams, as I do. My doctors tell me that my memory and attention problems are most likely due to a serious head impact I sustained in multiple concussive blasts while in Iraq. Before going to Iraq, my life was pretty normal. I liked hiking. I like biking. I liked climbing. I liked to read. I loved education. I was always going to school. I was a fish biologist, and I had worked for them for 19 years. And I loved that job, and when I came back, I didn't like it anymore. I didn't enjoy it. And also because of the memory, I couldn't remember simple things like where a river was or where even a bay was. I couldn't connect with people anymore, so I was very reclusive. I basically was home constantly. I didn't do anything, and I was very anti-social. [Glenn Close] In 2006, Domenica Siresee came into Bill's life. They'd first made contact on the Internet. Eventually, they met and got married. [Bill] Our marriage has always been as perfect as anyone could hope for, but better because I know she accepts me for who I am, disabled or not. [Domenica] Bill and I met post-Iraq. All I know about Bill before is photographs, videos, and secondhand accounts. When I met him, he was a shadow of that person. I spent a lot of time trying to encourage him, but I think that PAX just kind of took that and ran with it, and has really brought Bill beyond anything that I could have done. [Bill] I found out about Puppies Behind Bars from my psychologist at the Department of Veterans Affairs. My initial reaction to getting a dog from Puppies Behind Bars was somewhat reserved. When I first met PAX in Colorado doing some training, I wouldn't say it was love at first sight. It was definitely an exciting moment. I mean, PAX came in the room, and he did his little dance around, but it was kind of a release of stress that had been built up over a year. [Domenica] PAX had an incredible impact on our family. He bonded with Bill. He changed Bill's focus, and so it diverted his attention more away from himself and towards the dog, so I think that was a great thing. [Bill] And when I'm feeling particularly anxious out in public or something like that, and PAX comes up to me, and he's obvious, and he looks into my eyes. I pet him. I stroke him. I look into his eyes. That's what I do when I feel stressed, I focus on PAX and not what's going on that was bothering me. [Domenica] He keeps Bill safe. It's intangible almost, the things that this dog does for Bill, and thereby, it makes me feel happier because my husband feels safer. PAX has really brought Bill beyond anything that I could have done. He's just an incredible animal. [Glenn Close] We went with Bill and PAX back to Bedford for Bill to meet Laurie, the woman who had trained the dog that transformed his life. [Gloria Gilbert Stoga - President/Founder of Puppies Behind Bars] Laurie would be waiting for him at the end of the hall, so look at how he's looking. I honestly think that he's waiting to see if Laurie is down there. [Bill] Is she down there? [Gloria] You're going to see her soon. [Bill] You know--I think when I met--even before meeting Laurie-- I felt like we had a connection. We had a connection with PAX, but we had other connections too. She had PTSD. I have PTSD, different things like that that sort of bonded us, even before we got together. And so when I met her, I felt that and she felt that, and so it was a lot of emotion. [Glenn Close] As they approached the cell block where he had been raised, PAX got more and more excited. Bill let him go, and he raced to find Laurie. They hadn't seen each other for over a year. (cheers) Oh, look at him! That's great! [♪ dramatic music ♪] [Laurie] Bill! [Glenn Close] Two people united to the brillance and unconditional love of a dog. [Laurie] Is that your dad? What a good boy. [Bill] Going to New York and meeting Laurie--I mean-- that was one of those experiences in life that is right up there as one of the most special experiences that I've had in my life. I mean--it was very, very meaningful. [Laurie] What a boy! [Glenn Close] Laurie took Bill to see her cell, where she raised PAX, the place that was his home for 18 months. [Laurie] Good boy! Good boy, Baba! Good boy! That's a good boy! What's in your camp? I saved a couple of mementos. I didn't know he was going to a soldier his first Halloween, and this was his costume. And this was his first cookie bowl. Everything I own had a peace sign on it. We used nail polish for PAX, meaning peace in Latin. I just put my peace signs on everything. If you see behind you on the locker, there are pictures of PAX, Carlos, and my current pup, Mia. And that album is PAX at 3 months old, and the last picture is the one you sent me of PAX with the tag. [Bill] Oh, yeah. [Laurie] You got your bear? You was thirsty, buddy. [Gloria] Out of 20, 18 of these women are first-arrests ever, first time ever in any trouble with the law, and of the 20 women, every single one of them has had some sort of crime, and at least half are domestic violence situations. We're just real women trying to cope with real situations the best way we know how. We're moms, and we're daughters. We have children who are growing up too fast because we're not there to take care of them. And all we can do is pour all of that loving and nurturing into these puppies, and then let them take that out there to people like you. [♪ dramatic music ♪] [singing Happy Birthday to PAX!] This is Grandma Meatball. I do this for them when it's their birthday and when they're leaving us. We have a party for them, a farewell party. [Domenica] It was an absolutely incredible experience, a one-in-a-lifetime, and Laurie was so geniune-- I mean--incredibly genuine. She had hand knitted a bed for PAX, and she presented that to Bill. It was incredible. [Glenn Close] Bill was then able to spend time with the women of Puppies Behind Bars, and to hear first-hand what the program meant to them, and what his presence meant to them. >> I too suffer from PTSD. One of the things that this program has done for me is given me so much more confidence that I never had. >> Seeing you sitting there brings back every single heartache we have, every single joy we have. We want to give them the love that they can give you as a soldier. And these dogs are therapy for us also. >> Initially, when I first came to prison, I was really angry and full of resentment and stuff. After a few years, I joined the program, and this has been the most like worthwhile thing, like I feel like I'm giving back so much, that it has helped me so much to grow as an individual, to mature, because it is really hard in this environment to grow up. >> What pushed me to come here and join the program was my mother died from cancer--oh, God-- and I thought I was going to lose my mind. I don't know what I would do without this program. I really don't. I raised Virginia, who graduated, and she became a service dog. I'll wonder like how is Virginia, and I hope that she's still doing what she is supposed to be doing. And I seen her walking alongside of this wheelchair with this kid, and I was like, "Oh, my God! I did this! I'm helping this boy, and I don't even know him." You know--through a dog. I never thought that I could do this, but--anyway, I don't want to cry anymore. (laughing) Thank you for coming. >> Personally, this venture of our program, the service dog training, has a personal affect on me. My son comes home 2 weeks from today from Iraq. He has already been diagnosed with PTSD. He may be in need of our dogs. As an inmate, and as inmates here, we understand what loss of freedom is, and if we can give a certain back to anybody, a sense of freedom, that has more impact on us than probably anybody in society because we understand what it is to lose freedom. And we want to thank you for all you have done for our country, for being here, for letting us see PAX again, and for caring to know what went into raising him and how we do this, so thank you all for being here. [Laurie] PAX, come! After many years of domestic violence, I have PTSD, and if I had nightmares, if I was having flashbacks, and was having trouble grounding, PAX knew. He would come to me and just remind me that I wasn't there. I was here. And he was with me, and nothing bad was happening, and everything was going to be okay. I used to pray that he would make somebody feel the sense of freedom that he gave to me in a place where I was supposed to be everything but. He gave me back pieces of myself that I forgot even existed. He brought out of me things that I thought were long since dead. And when he left me, and they told me he was going to you, Bill, I realized that my special boy was going to do some special work for somebody who needed him even more than I did. [Domenica] One of the most important things that I would like for everybody here to know is that one dog does not just affect one life. That dog affected his life, affected my life, affected our children's lives. It's not just one dog, one man. It's one dog and an entire network that you're affecting, and it's just an incredible gift. I really thank all of you. [Bill] Last night we were having a conversation about some of my experiences in Iraq. In Iraq, there is danger of being fired on from everywhere. A passing vehicle, various kinds of bombs, and you still have to walk the streets, but you're taking a risk every time a vehicle goes by that something might happen. So when I came back from Iraq, that was one of the things that kept me from going outside, was the fear. But PAX--I mean--I'm here. I'm in New York. I'm walking the streets because of PAX. I just want to thank you, and I love you all. (clapping) [Glenn Close] At the end of a very emotional day, everybody gathered for a group photo. [Domenica] When we stood there and we watched Bill and Laurie hugging and just--all of us--we were just crying, everybody. I rank that up there as number one in my life experiences. [Bill] I can see the benefit that the program has on them. They love what they're doing, and they're all awesome women. They've had some difficult times in their lives, and they're going through a difficult time now, but they're making the best of it, and they're doing some good things. [♪ dramatic music ♪] [Executive Producer: Glenn Close] [Directed by: Glenn Close and Sarah Harvey] [Edited by: Sarah Harvey] [Audio mixed by: Christopher Dickinson] [Composed by: Gabrielle Bloch] [Bedford Camera Operators: Sarah Harvey, Gabrielle Bloch] [Interviewer Camera Operator: Dicky Dahl] [Special Thanks to: Bill and Domenica Campbell, Gloria Gilbert Stoga, Laurie Kellog and the women of Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, Elaine Lord, Christian Stavros, Al James, Joyce Dopkeen, Puppies Behind Bars, Fetch Dog, Trillum Productions, Sliced Bread Productions, Peepshow Post] [Please go to puppiesbehindbars.com for more information.] [Music in order of film:" "Pax Theme" Gabrielle Bloch, "War Theme" Gabrielle Bloch, "33-53.9N_118-38.8" Dolorean, "Is This Really What It's Come To" Port O'Brien, "Verses" Max Richter, "Minor Changes" Theresa Andersson, "Dying in Time" Dolorean "In the Colors" Ben Harper, ©Trillium Productions 2010. [fetchdog] [Trillium Productions, Inc.]
Posted on BrainLine November 9, 2010.