Barks and applause filled the room as the the newest class of K-9s crossed the stage at the graduation ceremony. The dogs are all part of the Heartworm Assistance Rehabilitation Training ... or H.A.R.T program.
The once discarded, heartworm-positive dogs have been cured and given a few lessons in obedience. And just as the pups are getting a second chance at life- their trainers, who are inmates at the Wakulla Correctional Institute, say they feel they are too.
Michael Jackson one of the trainers says, "I messed up in society and this is my way of giving back. I took a wrong turn in life and this has steered me in the right way."
Charles Johnson, a trainer says, "She helped save me because it teaches you to be more responsible and loving to not only the dog but to other people."
Johnson has been training his furry companion, Marley, for the past 12 weeks and it paid off ... as Marley was named the top dog of her class.
But all the pooches in the program can be considered top dogs- contributing to something much bigger than themselves.
The now healthy and obedient K-9s will go to new homes.
"She's been so helpful to me and I know I've been to her and I love her. I don't want to see her go, but I know she's got to go." says Johnson.
Eight dog graduated Tuesday. Six have already been adopted. To adopt a H.A.R.T. graduate, contact the Leon County Animal Service Center's Lisa Glunt at (850) 891-2950.