By Lisa, a Released ICAN Handler
I joined the ICAN team in 2003 as I was beginning to serve a 40 year sentence at Rockville Correctional Facility. I had made bad choices to get where I was, but I was determined to do everything I could during that time to become a better person. When starting this new adventure I was pretty quiet and still trying to get used to my new surroundings. My self-confidence was nonexistent at the time because I was still suffering from feeling as though I had let my family down by coming to prison. The other handlers welcomed me and just being around the dogs made life seem a little better.
I didn't have my own dog right away since I had to make it through the probationary period first. It was actually a little difficult for me not to treat the dogs like pets since that's what I was used to doing at home. When I got my first puppy named Molly I still had that mindset. Molly was a mixed breed and she was a little skittish. She would freeze up in public at times which would make me panic. I realized at that time I had to get serious and change my training methods in order to help her. I paired up with one of the older handlers for extra sessions so I could improve my skill level. Unfortunately, Molly did not improve and was adopted by one of the officers at RCF.
After Molly came Rudy. Rudy was my little blonde bundle of joy – a sweet yellow lab who was the runt of a litter of 9 pups. Rudy challenged me in every way imaginable, but he also taught me how to be a better trainer. There were many tears along the way, all mine, but at that point realized I could make it through any training issue if I could survive Rudy. I trained him for close to 18 months and was utterly devastated when he left RCF for advanced training. The good thing was that my confidence level had vastly improved. Sally could see that along with my leadership potential and appointed me Senior Trainer of our group. On top of training my own dog I was now responsible to train the new handlers coming into the program. I also worked on training plans and scheduling. I started feeling more useful and very happy that I was actually accomplishing something so positive.
Daddy Jammer was one of the dogs Lisa trained.
Although I was involved in every self-help group I could join, ICAN made the biggest difference in my life. Being able to maintain computer and management skills while in prison assisted me in obtaining a great job when I was released in 2011. The numerous dogs I trained each hold a special place in my heart and I am forever grateful for the experience. I began furloughing this year and I am so happy to continue to be a part of this great team.