ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – Cody, a 5-month-old Shepherd mix, met his new family at the Española Humane Animal Shelter. Cody was one of four puppies who came to the shelter months ago, unfortunately, overlooked over and over again, until now. The Herrera family was the perfect fit.

“It was love at first sight since we first saw his picture in the Paws in the Pen program,” Tammy Herrera said.

While Cody may be young, he’s already potty trained and can do some tricks. However, it’s who taught him those tricks that may surprise you: an inmate at the state penitentiary.

Cody is the first graduate of the “Paws in the Pen” program.

This was a partnership that started in November between Española Humane and the New Mexico Corrections Department. Once an inmate becomes certified, they train the shelter animals to get them ready for adoption.

For more than a month, Cody lived behind bars with the inmate. Now, his next chapter begins.

“We came in to pick him up and everybody (inmates) knows who Cody is and was, like, everybody wanted to say goodbye,” Española Humane Director of Communications Mattie Allen.

Cody isn’t the only one benefiting from the program. It also brings companionship to the people behind bars and takes a load off the shelter too.

“We’re limited in capacity for care in the shelter because we only have so many kennels and so many staff members, and so, to be able to get a puppy that’s being overlooked out of the shelter into training with someone 24/7, just to offer so much to the dog,” Allen said.

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When they picked up Cody, Española Humane dropped off the next trainee, a female dog named Dolly. There is a similar program at the Southern New Mexico Prison near Las Cruces. They can train up to 14 dogs at a time.