Book about inmate dog training program turns into stage production

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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – Since Angelina Cicone left prison four months ago, she and her dog Dolly have been inseparable.

“The last two and half weeks I was there, she came in from one of the rescues,” Cicone said.

Dolly came in for the Friends For Folks dog training program, an Oklahoma nonprofit started 30 years ago by veterinarian Dr. John Otto.

Angelina trained there.

“It has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life,” Cicone said.

The late Marvin Perry also found a new purpose through the dog training program while in prison for murder.

Perry was one of the first inmate trainers for the program.

Dr. Otto and his son wrote about Perry’s experience in the children’s book “Marvin’s Shining Star.”

“Marvin was a very good friend of mine that I had for years and that’s what the book’s based on -is Marvin and his little dog Star that saved a woman’s life,” Dr. John Otto said.

Now, those pages are turning into a theater production starring Dolly.

Otto hopes it will be shown in every school.

“We’re trying to help the children whose parents are incarcerated here in Oklahoma, which we have a terrible problem with as many of us know, to talk to the children about what they’re going through and the trauma that children face with parental incarceration,” Otto told KFOR.

According to the United Health Foundation, Oklahoma has the highest rate of adverse childhood experiences in the nation.

Divorce, substance abuse and having an incarcerated parent are some of the factors.

“We know if children can receive support, the changes in their bodies that take place from trauma can be overcome,” school counselor Sharon Heatley said.

Their other hope is to show those children they’re not alone.

“So we’re using a play, a form of art to hopefully help children open up and talk about this issue that’s so important not just to them but our state,” Otto said.

For more information on the Friends for Folks program, visit their website.

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