Mercedes Castillo helped socialize Jed through the Pups at the Pen program

Jed and Mercedes Castillo have made each other better individuals, and now they get to enjoy the spoils of their work together.

Castillo, 19, was recently released from New York’s Erie County Correctional Facility, reports WIVB. One of the first things she did with her freedom is reunite with a friend from behind bars: Jed the puppy.

During her incarceration, Castillo took part in the prison’s Pups at the Pen program, which pairs inmates with shelter dogs who need a little more socialization before they are ready for adoption. Castillo was partnered with Jed, then a timid lab mix who needed help trusting others.

The pup was rescued from Arkansas and needed time to adjust before he was put into the shelter environment at the Erie County SPCA.

“This was a way for him to get this 24-7 attention,” Barbara Frazier, the Behavior and Training Supervisor at the Erie County SPCA, told WIVB about the program.

Jed found the friend he needed in Castillo, who, over seven weeks, helped the dog learn house and leash training as well. In return, the puppy turned Castillo’s time behind bars into a lesson on responsibility and compassion.

When Castillo was released on April 11, she had one destination in mind. The dog lover, who has three pups at her family home, went to the SPCA Serving Erie County’s new facility in West Seneca and adopted Jed, the first canine adoption at the new shelter.

This marks a successful moment not just for Castillo and Jed, but for the Pups at the Pen program, which started in July 2016. The partnership between Erie County Sheriff’s Office and the SPCA Serving Erie County has graduated 11 dogs so far. All but one have gone on to find forever homes. The remaining canine graduate is currently living in a foster home.