Redemption Tale: A Murderer, a Dog and an Autistic Child

Since 1998, Chris Vogt has been serving a 48 year prison sentence in Colorado’s Sterling Correctional Facility for second degree murder. He’s been using that time to make some kind of cosmic amends, to turn his life around by helping others who need it. How?

Vogt is part of a program called “Colorado Cell Dogs” that trains abandoned canines to work with the blind and deaf. Vogt’s focus, however, is a little different.

As reported by ABC News, “With nothing but time on his hands, [Vogt] read all he could about autism, and came up with unique training techniques for service dogs–aimed at helping autistic children overcome behavioral and emotional issues. The dogs come from local shelters and Vogt trains them inside his cell, acting out problem behaviors himself. He trains each dog to meet a specific child’s need. He taught one dog to help nuzzle a child, so she would sleep at night. And he trained another to nudge and snap a child out of his fits and tantrums.”

Nine autistic children have been helped so far, including Zachary Tucker, age nine. Zachary’s anxiety was so bad that he often couldn’t function and he refused to be touched. Desperate for help, the Tucker family started traveling 200 miles on weekends to Sterling Correctional Facility to work with Vogt and his newest dog, Clyde.

Clyde learned to “nudge and poke” Zachary whenever he sensed the boy’s anxiety building, and so far the approach has worked wonders. Zachary, who eventually took Clyde home with him, told ABC News, “My anxiety has been brought down by at least 70 percent and I’ve been calm enough to socialize with kids, which I haven’t been able to do in a long time.”

When ABC News traveled to the prison with the Tucker family, they witnessed the boy who never liked to be touched give Vogt a hug. Vogt said, “This is the thing I do to give back. When Zach and even the other kids get to work with me, they don’t get to see the murderer. This has given me a chance to do something better.”

Watch the ABC News report below:

ABC US News | ABC Business News

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About Tony Rossi

After graduating from St. John's University in New York with degrees in Communications and English, Tony Rossi found a job at the Catholic media organization, The Christophers, that allowed him to indulge his interest in religion, media, and pop culture. He served as The Christophers' TV producer for 11 years, and is currently the host and producer of the organization's radio show/podcast Christopher Closeup, writer and editor of their syndicated Light One Candle column, and producer/scriptwriter of the annual Christopher Awards ceremony.