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April 19, 2016

Volunteer Spotlight: Jamie Young

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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. Here's her ICAN story:

I first heard of ICAN when a mutual friend introduced me to Sally Irvin while she was in the process of founding the organization. We were at a CCI event where the puppies-in-training visited the offenders at the old IWP during an ice cream social community event. At that time I was looking for a local assistance dog program to volunteer with, but my interest in service dogs started even before joining ICAN.

I grew up in California near Guide Dogs for the Blind, and saw puppies in-training and working guide dogs in the community. I was fascinated and desperately wanted to join 4-H and raise a guide dog puppy, but was never able to do so as a child. While in veterinary school, my dream job was to become a veterinarian at a guide dog school. While in graduate school in Colorado, I started volunteering for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) and ultimately signed up to puppy raise - finally being able to satisfy my childhood desire. Little did I know where that would lead. My roommate and I raised an adorable Golden retriever named Rosemary who became a mobility assist Service Dog, and it was a magical experience. I was hooked! I raised a total of 5 puppies for CCI while living in Colorado and Indiana, one of which became a breeder for CCI, and met many wonderful friends through the program. I became interested in how genetics influences a dog's working potential, and started avidly following CCI's breeding program through multiple generations, and was able to observe many CCI puppies in-training at CCI puppy classes.

After CCI, I started volunteering for smaller programs which allowed me to learn how to train assistance dogs and participate in Team Training, not just puppy raise. While volunteering for small programs, I came to realize that many of these programs lacked ready access to dogs with the genetic potential to do assistance dog work, resulting in a low success rate or dogs that had serious health problems that consumed valuable resources. So started my new goal of using my veterinary and canine experience to purpose-breed litters for assistance dog work to provide smaller programs like ICAN with access to dogs with superior genetic potential. This experience has far exceeded my expectations, and now with the ADI Breeding Cooperative, I get to interface with breeding program managers across the US and Canada who all share the common goal of breeding healthy, confident, trainable dogs with above average potential for assistance dog work.

I have puppy raised and advanced trained for 8 different assistance or guide dog programs and provided puppies or older dogs to 17 different programs across the country. I especially enjoy being a facilitator for sharing resources between programs such as breeding stock, puppies, or dogs-in-training. Not all puppies from ICAN litters are well suited for the demands of ICAN's prison pup program, yet some of the softer pups may do well in community-based puppy raising programs. ICAN may be able to provide opportunities for dogs who were not successful in large training programs due to kennel stress or specific program requirements. It is a win-win when programs can work together to provide more quality working dogs to clients. A dog that lacks the traits to become a guide dog may become an autism service dog or diabetic alert dog in another program.

Working with ICAN to raise the first litter of puppies has been one of my most joyful experiences with the organization. I loved being able to share their journey with them and see them grow into confident service dogs. While working with the puppies is always a joy, whelps are also one of the most stressful experiences. There are so many precious lives at risk and they have such important jobs in front of them. However, being able to watch the dogs I have puppy raised or trained graduate is such an amazing feeling and makes all of the stress worth it.