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.
It started out as a love for dogs and wanting to be a part of this incredible organization. What I didn't know was how their unconditional love would comfort me in my time of grief after my father died. I don't think my first few furlough dogs learned much from me, but they helped me "get off the couch" and emotionally heal. I now see this same unconditional love being given to the handlers and how it helps them heal their past and give hope to their present and future. Joni & Pup, Ogie
I never dreamed I would be patted down by a guard to enter a maximum security prison so I could attend a class taught by a prisoner. I learned how they owned their past life choices and were now giving back to society by training dogs for people living with a disability. I learned to look past my snap judgments and gained a respect for the incarcerated. I learned to look past my anxiety of entering a prison, past the shackles and jumpsuits and see a human being who is making a difference in the world of the disabled. One dog at a time.
Observing the spirit of prisoners and volunteers in every dog as it eagerly seeks to please their forever person has changed my life forever. Seeing the clients beam with happiness as they gain confidence to leave their house, set a walker aside, vanish social barriers, manage medical issues or give a "first" hug to parents, is hard to describe. I don't see a "prisoner" or a "disabled" person anymore. I see, hear and feel a family of "people" working hard towards a common goal of overcoming the hardships life sometimes throws at us.
I feel very blessed to have found my life's passion being an ICAN furlough volunteer. I hope to give back a fraction of the support, love and friendships I have received. One human, one dog at a time.