Bill Campbell, a 47-year-old veteran from the war in Iraq, came home from his service to his country with concussive and traumatic brain injury. This resulted in Bill being 100% disabled. Bill’s loved ones were naturally concerned about him and the quality of life he would have following this injury, but fortunately, one special dog came to the rescue. Pax is a yellow Labrador Retriever who was trained by 27 women who reside as inmates at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. Through a nonprofit program called Puppies Behind Bars, the women train service dogs for veterans and other people who need the dogs’ companionship and help. The women at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility have been training dogs for 10 years, but they rarely get to see the results of their beautiful work, which is to see their dogs actually serving the human beings who so desperately need them.
The barbed wire and steel bars that keep them inside prevent that from happening. However, Bill Campbell wanted to thank the person who was responsible for one of the greatest gifts of his life, which was his loyal and loving service dog, Pax. He was determined to make it happen. He made the plans to visit the prison and the women who had helped him so much. The women in the unit that trains service dogs were about to receive a very special visit from a special hero. For a long time, Bill, who suffers from severe PTSD, was too frightened to even leave his Washington State home. Even when he was at home, he had constant flashbacks and nightmares.
The man who had been a wildlife biologist, bicyclist, scuba diver, and climber was unable to fully live life. Pax changed all of that. As Bill sat in front of a group of women at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, he explained to them that he was “here in New York. I’m walking the streets again.” And it was all thanks to Pax and the amazing women who trained him. Pax stays by Bill’s side at all times and watches his back, which makes Bill feel safer. When Bill wakes up from nightmares, Pax is right there, reminding him that he’s home safe in his bed.
The women at the facility have committed heinous crimes, most of them murder. They take responsibility for their crimes, but in many cases, they were victims and the people they killed were their tormenters. With that said, there is a redemptive power in training these amazing dogs. One woman says, “We can’t change why we’re here, but I changed somebody’s life.” Through these special dogs, they give someone deserving a chance at freedom again. Many of the women have found purpose in training the dogs, saying that they believe that their ruined lives can still be salvageable and might still have some purpose. You can’t calculate the difference these women are making with their service in training these dogs.
As it turns out, one woman, in particular, played the role of training Pax for Bill Campbell and her name is Laurie Kellogg, age 44. Convicted of murder, she was given Pax three weeks after her father died. The time she spent training Pax helped her mourn and she was devastated when Pax was taken away to be sent into service. However, she’s been in touch with Bill Campbell and is able to follow some of Pax’s adventures. On the morning he visited the prison, Pax spotted her on a prison lane and ran to her jogging circles around her before washing her face with lots of kisses.
Laurie says that she understands PTSD because she had it after many years of domestic violence. Pax knew that and did for her the same thing he now does for Bill Campbell. He gave her a sense of freedom in a place that isn’t free. Losing Pax hurt Laurie, but she gave Bill Campbell, according to him, “the greatest gift anybody has ever given me.” Laurie was profoundly grateful for the visit. Watch this touching video below.