written by Stephanie, ICAN Handler, Indiana Women's Prison
Jackson will be graduating in December to be placed with Eugene who lives with Cerebral Palsy. He will be providing him mobility assistance.
Trying to write this has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve had here at ICAN. I’m Foster, and to attempt to describe my relationship with Jackson isn’t easy. It’s possibly been one of the best things I’ve ever had the opportunity to experience, getting to know, learn from, teach, and be a part of this awesome dog’s life.
Jackson’s spunky to say the least. He’s the Dennis-the-Menace of the service dog world and I say that with all the love and laughter I can. It’s not insulting in the least. Jackson can’t help but to be a character. He doesn’t at all fit into the ideal image of a model service dog. Think more along the lines of him being as a Marley of ICAN. Always up to something. My fellow handlers and I have had the privilege of being witness to some of the most glorious displays of doggie antics you can imagine. Jackson would never think anything were out of the way at all. He loves being a dog. He lives his life in total bliss, making the most of every opportunity to have a blast. It’s one of the many things I love about him. It’s also one of the things he’s taught me. The lesson to just relax, enjoy every experience while gaining knowledge and not worrying so much about acceptance and pleasing others…this pooch has been my Jedi Master. The Force is so strong with him. I’ve found myself wanting to be like Jackson. I’ll explain why.
It isn’t easy living with the knowledge that because you’re incarcerated, chances are you’ve let several people in your life down. More than likely it’s people you care about. It’s a process to hold yourself accountable, forgive yourself, and then apply your energies into not berating yourself, but being productive. It’s an even further challenge to learn how to enjoy living your life free of guilt and shame. Sometimes you can feel a little guilty for saying that you’re responsible, or that you’re happy in your circumstance. How can you be, when poor choices have led to society putting you away? to be separated from those you love for being irresponsible and discontented so much so that it culminated into incarceration? Well, two years with Jackson set me free of feeling guilty about making the decision to be happy and enjoy the life I have now. I can’t change my circumstance, but I can change how I choose to walk thru it. Not only do I have to option of doing good things with my time, but I can have a blast doing it. Jackson may be a little rascally by nature, but he gets the job done with his own flare and he does everything with joy and enthusiasm. He has decided to have fun and experience all he can being who he is innately, while adding new talents and skills to his ever increasing resume. I love that.
Jackson doesn’t wake up in the morning and wonder whether or not I’ll feed him. He just knows I will. He doesn’t stress over whether or not he’ll get to play. He knows he will when it’s time. He isn’t thrown off his square about whether or not he going to have a job or get everything just perfect. He moves on in seconds to something else and tries again later if he doesn’t get it right then. I love that too.
I heard doctors say that there’s always one patient who changes their approach to practicing medicine. Attorneys have a case or client that impacts them. Teachers have a student that grabs their heart and brings out more passion to educate. For me, it’s been Jackson. He’s helped me to be a better mom, a better friend, a better employee, a better leader, a better teacher, a better citizen, a better person. In all of my life I’ll never be able to thank him enough for just being who he is and refusing to be anything else. Jackson is my very best friend. I love who I am in his eyes. And that is now how I see myself. He is the epitome of perfect to me. It’s a funny and beautiful love we share. I love him. Congratulations to Jackson's new forever friend, Eugene, for the very gift of Jackson and all the joy he will bring to your life, just like he has mine. I guarantee lots of laughs are in your future.