An Old Friend I've Just Met: Senator
by Mary Lofton
(Mary received Senator as an In-Home Skilled Companion at the 2017 ICAN Summer Graduation. Her husband, WTHR Meteorologist, Chuck Lofton, along with Nicole Misencik, will be co-hosting ICAN's 15th Celebration on November 17th).
Senator & Mary
I wish you could meet my old friend Senator, the service dog I needed most. He's a wonderful, wise friend, I've only known him since June, but it seems as if I've known him all my life.
"Maizie Mondays" on Channel 13 had introduced me to ICAN and the amazing work it does. Reports on Maizie the Service-Dog-in-Training showed how inmates at Indiana prisons gain purpose and hope by raising and training these dogs to be service companions for … well, for people who need service dogs.
Then it was suggested that I apply for an ICAN In-Home Skilled Companion. Perhaps I needed one, because glaucoma and brain tumor complications had robbed me of part of my vision. I thought having a service dog would only be an admission that I might never get better.
I met Senator during an in-home evaluation, and I thought: "Nice dog, strange name'' but probably not for me.
Little did I know that Senator was one of the dogs brought around for sponsorship at an ICAN gala in 2014. The cost for training, healthcare, food and client support for one service dog, one service dog, is $26,000! The folks who decided to get together to sponsor Senator were friends of retiring Senator Dan Coats, and they had no idea that the little puppy they were supporting would someday come to me! First, he would be loved and trained by his handler, Sonya at Indiana Women's Prison, and by my new friend, Patricia Clark. Pat, before I even knew her, had once thanked him on the ICAN Facebook page for being such a "gentle, sensitive, loving and intuitive dog," and later wrote that he is like the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man all rolled into one: fully in possession of the brains, the bravery and the enormous heart he didn't know he had.
Mary, Senator & Pat Clark Sonya, ICAN Handler at Indiana Women's Prison
Senator came to me two years later as part of the Team Training Graduating Class of June 2017. He walks with me, jogs with me, and sees things – even feels things – that I can't. He retrieves items I drop, he guards me wherever I go, he gives me confidence and a happy heart, and he gives my husband peace of mind. He even is learning to be my laundry assistant, and he's very much a part of the Lofton family.
Chuck, Mary & Senator at Graduation
In The Muppet Movie, Jim Henson and Paul Williams claimed "there's not a word yet for old friends who've just met," but I think I have the term they were looking for: ICAN Dog. For me, it's Senator, the dog I needed all along.
Top Left: Handler Benjamin at Pendleton Correctional Facility with Senator; Top Right, Bottom Left and Right: By the time Senator graduated, he knew more than 60 cues to assist Mary.