Written by Kendall's mother, Renee
Handler, Chelsea with Kendall & Clare at graduation.
I TRULY BELIEVE THAT TO ACHIEVE TRUE HAPPINESS, WE HAVE TO GET INVOLVED IN SOMETHING BIGGER THAN OURSELVES. IT GIVES OUR LIFE PURPOSE. WE ALL NEED A PURPOSE.
Clare is Kendall's service dog. Kendall has very limited verbal skills, and no sense of his personal safety. Clare's most important job is to give me peace of mind. When we are in public I no longer have to worry that I will lose Kendall. I shed my first tears with ICAN when I was told Clare would be trained to FIND him.
Her other job is to be a social bridge. Because of Kendall's social nature, it is great that Clare draws people to talk to him when they might not otherwise.
I APPLIED FOR A SERVICE DOG: I DIDN'T KNOW I WOULD GET A LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCE.
I really didn't know much about ICAN when I applied for a service dog. A friend of mine suggested this organization after she attended a fundraiser. We were put on the wait list and received a call in 2014 saying they might have a dog that would be a good match: Miss Clare.
My first thought was I couldn't believe I was taking my child to a prison. Was this really necessary to get a dog? Kendall and I spent two weeks going to and from the west side women's prison to learn the commands and how to work with Clare. It ended up being the most incredible experiences of our lives. We met many loving, compassionate, hard working, and talented women. I witnessed how this program provides these women job training, people skills and public speaking experience. It gives them self-worth and a way to give back to the community-it gives them a PURPOSE. In their harsh and cold setting, they are able to give and receive love from animals that are non-judgmental.
The dogs usually do their level one and level two training at the men's prison. While I only experienced this program's benefits in the women's prison, I assume the effect is equally positive at the men's prison.
After completing our two-week training, we were sad to leave our new friends. In fact, most mornings on our way to school, Kendall would say, "I want prison." (I hope he didn't repeat that at school.)
IT ISN'T HOW LONG YOU ARE HERE, BUT THE DIFFERENCE YOU MAKE WHILE YOU ARE HERE THAT IS IMPORTANT.
ICAN affects countless people in positive ways. Graduations are twice a year and I highly recommend attending. I also recommend going to a monthly "If the Dogs Could Talk" presentation. You can meet with the amazing women training the dogs, and ask questions about the program.