Sheridan dog trainer finds success despite felony, uses her experience to help other inmates

Local News

SHERIDAN, Ark. — A while back, we introduced you to Tracy Owen, a dog trainer out of Sheridan. Before becoming a trainer, Tracy spent 17 years in prison on a marijuana conviction.

But the Paws in Prison program gave her a purpose.

Since her release in 2016, she’s made quite a name for herself in the dog-training world. She teaches private lessons, group lessons, works with therapy dogs, the list goes on.

She’s using her purpose to help other people still behind bars find theirs.

A decade ago, a warden asked Tracy Owen and some others if they wanted to work with dogs.

“It was a gift, really, to have a dog after so long of being locked up and now you’ve got something you can love on,” Owen said.

Since her release in 2016, Tracy has done very well for herself.

“I’m very motivated,” Owen said. “I’ve got a lot of time to make up. I want to be successful. I don’t want to depend on anybody.”

Along with her dozens of clients, Tracy is also credited with training the state’s first ever leak-detection dog, Vessel, who works for Central Arkansas Water.

She says her record hasn’t stopped her from building her clientele.

“When I was locked up, I thought, oh, these people, when I get out, they’re not gonna be real responsive to me because she was locked up, but that’s not the way it was,” Owen said.

“If you are doing what you’re supposed to be doing, and you’re genuine, people want that success,” Owen said.

It’s a lesson she wants to share with those still doing their time.

“I felt like it would be a big motivation for them,” Owen said.

She even hires inmates upon their release to give them a little leg up.

“They’ve handled a lot of different situations in there,” Owen said. “They can help me handle some of these dogs.”

What is it about a dog for Tracy?

“They don’t judge,” Owen said. “They love, regardless.”

And something important to her, dogs will shoot you straight.  

“They’re always honest,” Owen said.  

Life lessons from four-legged friends who helped this woman walk into her purpose.

“My clients, I think, are very proud of me,” Owen said.

Tracy says before she went to prison, she wanted to be a veterinarian. She says she still thinks about fulfilling that dream, but even if she went to school, she couldn’t be a vet since she’s a felon.

However, she is actively working on getting her case expunged.

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