Being a part of the ICAN Team has made a major difference in our lives.
We were from the old school of training yanking a choke collar and a gruff NO. Training dogs in a positive manner gives a much quicker and happier response from the dogs. This in turn has given us a gentler and a more caring attitude, not only with the pups, but also towards individuals.
Jamie Young is a volunteer veterinarian with ICAN. She has whelped pups, puppy raised, and cared for the dogs in training for years. In addition to her medical knowledge, she has provided another invaluable resource to ICAN, her connection with other service dog organizations. Jamie has worked with 17 different programs across the country and enabled them to share needed resources with one another.
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.
I discovered ICAN by observing their dogs in action at the Community North Rehabilitation Center while visiting my father. I watched in awe as the dogs assisted my father and patients with physical therapy and emotional support. Little did I know how ICAN and their dogs would take me on a journey of support, personal growth and new friendships.
A wonderful poem by ICAN volunteer Steve Ward.
Through my ICAN-related activities and teaching at IWP, I've gotten to know many of the handlers. As they've told me, ICAN is a way for them to give back, make things right, a second change, and a do-over.
Three years ago if someone had told me that I'd be spending my days in an office where dog hair is as plentiful as paper clips, I'd have just laughed. The thought that I'd be comfortable going in and out of a maximum security prison and working side by side with inmates on a regular basis had definitely never crossed my mind.
Many people do not love unconditionally and are quick to judge others, but dogs just accept and love each person for who they are without judgment. I see them in challenging situations with other dogs or tasks they are trying to learn and they keep going, live in the moment, and don't look back - no judgment, no memory of the struggle, no grudges.