WHEN veteran Michael Nobes received his service dog Lola, from the jail's service dog training program just under 12 months ago, he was crippled by the symptoms of his post traumatic stress disorder, and barely surviving.
On Thursday he was guest speaker at the PTSD Service Dog Graduation Ceremony at the jail, talking about the impact Lola has had on his life.
The PTSD service dog program is run behind bars in Bathurst Correctional Centre and pairs up rescue dogs with inmates for an intensive training program to produce assistance dogs for veterans.
On Thursday, two of the program's dogs, Gus and Beau, graduated and were presented to veterans as part of their rehabilitation.
Mr Nobes said 12-months ago he could barely leave his house, let alone speak publicly, before people he didn't know.
"Lola has changed my life," he said.
A clearance diver for the Australian Defence Force, Mr Nobes told the gathering he had no shame in telling the group Lola has not only changed his life, but on at least one occasion, saved it.
"She has brought me back to a state I had before joining the defence force," he said.
Since taking ownership of Lola after the last PTSD Service Dog Graduation in April, Mr Nobes said he has halved his medication, has less need for psychological support, and is slowly returning to life before PTSD.
"I used to suffer nightmares four to six nights a fortnight. Now Lola jumps up and lies across my legs when it happens and brings me back to an easy state."
He said she was trained to use her paws to turn on the light, when he is afraid of the dark.
"And I'm not ashamed to say that on at least one occasion, she saved my life. She doesn't judge, I can sit and tell her my inner most fears," he said.
Kylie Fogarty, who oversees the PTSD Service Dog program at the jail spoke about the success of the program, not only in helping veterans, but also its ability to rehabilitate inmates who are part of it.
She said she had seen first hand the cognitive and behavioral differences in inmates participating in the program, which in turn was beneficial to the community at large.
One of the inmates, who has trained two dogs through the program is due for release in the upcoming weeks.
The inmate, who cannot be identified, said being part of the program was "life changing" saying "words cannot express how grateful he is" to be part of it.
He said getting Beau "was the best thing that ever happened to him" and he will take the lessons learned through the program with him when he is released.