And then along came Ron.
Yogi was being trained to become a trauma dog and he was destined to go to Ron Fenton, a former Victorian police officer from Melbourne who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Yogi had been trained to recognise Mr Fenton’s symptoms. He had learnt to gently wake Mr Fenton before night terrors took hold and nuzzle Mr Fenton’s hand with a slobbery mouth to calm him.
Mr Fenton said Yogi saved his life, reducing his reliance on medication and preventing him from taking his own life on more than one occasion.
Mr Fenton is now backing a campaign by state Justice Party leader Stuart Grimley for a similar program, where dogs would go to veterans and emergency service workers, to be run in Victorian prisons.
“It will mean there will be veterans whose lives are going to be saved, because all these dogs are life-savers,” Mr Fenton said.
Mr Grimley has called for the government to fund a program that could mirror what is being done in Bathurst.
The NSW program, run by Defence Community Dogs, has about 12 rescue dogs living in the prison at a time, supported by a trainer who works in the facility full-time. The inmates are selected in an application process that takes into account their behaviour inside.
“These programs are successful, they do work. Why can’t we have them here in Victoria?” Mr Grimley said.
Defence Bank, founded for Australian Defence Force members and veterans, funds the dogs program.
Defence Bank chief executive David Marshall said it was the financial institution’s only charitable endeavour, and one that has a “huge impact” on prisoners and veterans.
Since Defence Community Dogs began running the program in 2014, more than 80 dogs have been trained and almost 70 per cent have graduated as accredited assistance dogs.
Corrections Minister Natalie Hutchins said there were ongoing discussions with Defence Community Dogs about potentially adding to the initiatives already running in the justice system.
Greyhound adoption and dog rescue programs already run at Dhurringile, Tarrengower and Beechworth correctional centres and the Office of Public Prosecutions uses two Labradors, who came from a prison in Queensland, to support vulnerable witnesses in Victorian courts.
“We recognise the important role canine programs can play in our justice system to assist victims and help prisoners turn their lives around,” Ms Hutchins said.
Last Wednesday marked four years ago to the day since Yogi left the Bathurst jail, coincidentally on the same day Benni was released.
Having survived being shot on duty and the mental demons that followed, Mr Fenton said his life is now coming to an end, with cancer overcoming his liver.
He is at peace with this and is living his last months to their fullest. In the past week, he had both sky-diving and white-water rafting booked in.
It was only what would happen to Yogi after he “shuffles off this mortal coil” that worried him.
“The biggest concern I had is what would happen to my boy,” Mr Fenton said.
Pretty soon, Yogi will be going back to Benni.
“Going back to his original handler, his original trainer – I like the balance of it,” Mr Fenton said.
Benni, 36, said training Yogi was “hands down” the most satisfying achievement of his life, because of what it has done for Mr Fenton.
He said he was upset when Mr Fenton told him about his diagnosis, but was honoured to take Yogi back to live with him and a Labrador he adopted after his release.
“It’s almost like it’s meant to be.”
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Tammy Mills is the legal affairs reporter for The Age.