PITTSBURG — A few Southeast Kansas Humane Society dogs graduated this past weekend.

The dogs, newly named Bandit and Reece, graduated from a program called Second Chance Pups which taught them how to sit, stay and other things such as leash and house training.

“It went really well,” Clinic Coordinator for Pawprints on the Heartland Robin Carson said. “It was very inspiring and really good to see the two dogs graduate.”

Through Second Chance Pups, dogs from animal shelters are trained at a penitentiary in Nebraska for nine weeks.

There, the dogs are placed with an inmate which they call a handler.

“It is a great rehabilitative measure for the inmates, offering them an opportunity to give back to society in a positive manner and contribute to a solution for the growing problem of uncared-for and unwanted animals,” the Second Chance Pups website reads.

Bandit — originally called Mr. X — was dumped at a gate and was skittish around humans and Reece — originally named Sarah Jessica Parker — was shy and prefered the company of other animals over humans. Both are now obedience trained and each were adopted into a home.

Dogs which show the potential have an opportunity to further their training in different fields such as diabetic training, classroom assistance or help veterans, Carson said.

Carson traveled to Nebraska with SEK Humane Society Animal Caretaker Cara Cobb to watch them both graduate. At the graduation they said their final goodbyes to Bandit and Reece, along with leaving behind a third dog, Haku, who was selected to join the program.

“He [Haku] is one of the most overlooked dogs in the shelter,” Cobb said. “When this came up, it was the best thing that happened for him.”

With tears welling in her eyes, Cobb said she called Haku her “dancing bear” because he greeted people by “dancing” using only his back legs. She said many took pictures of his “dance” but never took him home.

Cobb said Haku — just like the other dogs — will receive full attention from the inmates who also benefit from the dogs’ presence. For example, one inmate told Cobb that the training helped channel his stress and frustration into something positive.

“The inmates are so proud of these dogs,” she said.

The SEK Humane Society dogs are not the only ones who have benefited from the program, City of Pittsburg Shelter Manager Sharon Stanley said.

Stanley said the city has adopted out 23 dogs through Second Chance Pups in 2017.

“These 23 dogs could have been euthanized,” she said. “If we didn’t have Second Chance Pups, more dogs could have been euthanized.”

Stanley said the city’s pound is working to keep dogs from being euthanized by placing them in obedience programs like Second Chance Pups, utilizing social media to find their owners and taking them to the Humane Society when a dog has been adopted — 17 have been taken to the shelter this year, saving a total of 40 lives, she said.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.