I joined the ICAN team in 2003 as I was beginning to serve a 40 year sentence at Rockville Correctional Facility. I had made bad choices to get where I was, but I was determined to do everything I could during that time to become a better person. When starting this new adventure I was pretty quiet and still trying to get used to my new surroundings. My self-confidence was nonexistent at the time because I was still suffering from feeling as though I had let my family down by coming to prison. The other handlers welcomed me and just being around the dogs made life seem a little better.
Tracy is a Special Education teacher at Belzer Middle School. She and her husband had always wanted a dog, but neither of them were able to be home throughout the day and they didn't want to leave a dog in a crate for so long. Everything fell into place when the principal at Tracy's school brought her a copy of the "Celebrating Our Indiana City Carmel" magazine from January of 2007. In the magazine there was an article about a facility dog in the Carmel school system. "We thought, 'If Carmel can do it, so can we,'" said Tracy.
When I became a furlough volunteer for ICAN, I was an experienced trainer. My techniques had gotten me good results in competitive obedience and I felt pretty confident in my approach. I used a combination of coercive, jerk and correct type, methods and positive reward based training. I was pretty sure this was the best and fastest way to get the message across. After all, I had just had my results confirmed by AKC judges who repeatedly placed my dog in the top four.
When people ask, "What does it mean for you to have Séamus?" it is really hard for me to answer that effectively with words. Yes, he makes me more independent; he helps me balance and walk; he helps me picked up dropped items; he helps Michael cope which in turns helps relieve my stress. But to explain what Séamus means to me is like me trying to describe how breathing impacts my life. Breathing just is. Yet it's everything. And that is in an essence Séamus.
You're walking down the street when you see a dog with a vest, designating it as a service dog. How shoud you react? Or even better, how should you not react? Here are 5 simple rules to help you remember what you should do when you meet a service dog team.
Ever since I have become a teacher, I have wanted a therapy dog. I had researched how beneficial a dog can be in the class and it seemed perfect when I heard about ICAN through my sister. She had a friend whose husband received a dog through the organization. I went to a presentation at the Indiana Women's Prison with my sister and her friend and knew that this was a wonderful organization. I then applied for a facility dog and Bodhi joined our family in March of 2010.