ICAN Gave Us Ally. Ally Gave Us a Miracle

By Joan Goldfarb, mother of Olivia

(Olivia received Ally (Allegro) at ICAN’s 2014 Graduation as a Mobility Assist dog. This story is an update of how Olivia’s life has dramatically changed since receiving Four Feet of Hope – Ally.)

Five years ago we walked into the Indiana Women’s Prison with lots of excitement but not completely sure what we were getting into.  At that time we did not have a definitive diagnosis for Olivia, only that her cerebellum was not properly developed and that she was unable to balance, walk independently or motor plan her movements.  She used a walker or wheelchair to get around.  Olivia now has a diagnosis of a rare genetic disorder called Spino Cerebellar Ataxia type 5 with congenital onset.

Five years ago, our original hopes and goals for Ally and Olivia included Ally helping Olivia with dropped items, turning on and off lights, pulling her walker to her and providing a social bridge.  We quickly saw those goals met and started to see so many other possibilities.  In team training Olivia took a few steps with Ally and we were so thrilled and began thinking maybe Ally could help Olivia walk short distances in the house.  By the end of the first year, they met that goal.  So we thought maybe Ally could help Olivia walk outside and in public situations.  By the end of the second year, Ally was helping Olivia hike trails, navigate aisles in grocery stores and between tables in restaurants, climb stairs and sand dunes!  We started working on a new goal for Ally to attend school with Olivia. ICAN came out to help us educate the school system and develop a plan to introduce Ally into the school.  I am very proud to say that Ally has been attending school with Olivia for 3 years now!

Ally gave Olivia strength, confidence and courage! Ally truly taught Olivia how to walk.  The walker now sits in our garage collecting dust as Olivia no longer needs it!  At school and in public situations Olivia has Ally to walk with by her side! At home Olivia walks independently without help!

Olivia’s first steps at ICAN’s Team Training with Ally in 2014.


ICAN provides HOPE but it also provides so much more. ICAN gave us Ally and Ally gave us a miracle.


-Joan Goldfarb, mother of Olivia