The following letter was read on stage at ICAN’s 2018 Wine & Wags. Erica Tedder is a school teacher in Centerville, Indiana, and has an ICAN Facility Dog named Truman. It was a surprise when she asked Truman’s handler, Archie, who has since been released from prison and has made a successful reentry into our community, to come to the stage. Here is the letter she read to him.
Wow! Here we stand on the same stage, and we don’t even really know each other. However, this is a moment that will forever change my life. To have this opportunity to stand face to face with you and thank you is a blessing. Let me tell you a little about myself. I am a 5th-grade teacher, and I became interested in pursuing a facility dog for my classroom as I watched so many students struggle in a variety of areas. I applied for a facility dog through ICAN, because I truly believed the presence of a dog would change everything. I knew the process of receiving a dog was lengthy, and it was extremely hard to be patient and wait. I will never forget the day that Sandi called me and said things moved a lot quicker than expected. She had an amazing dog that would be perfect for the classroom. I remember seeing a picture of you and my furever dog. My eyes immediately filled with tears, because my soon to be friend was the cutest dog I had ever seen. I was also deeply touched because I saw your face in the picture, and I was so grateful for the amount of time you spent training this amazing animal. You see, our lives were very different, but we were immediately connected.
When I found out I would have to go to a prison for training, I’m not going to lie…I became a little nervous. I had never stepped foot into prison before. I had no idea that my heart would be so touched by everything I saw and experienced during this process. I met real people with incredible souls. I realized how ICAN provides hope, not only for people in the community but the handlers, as well. These dogs are not just dogs. They are heroes. They bridge the gap between so many diverse groups of people, and it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever watched.
You are probably wondering which dog I am referring to. Well, let me tell you about him. He is the biggest furball in the world. His eyes touch the soul in a way that nothing else does. His smile lights up a room. His love is deep, and he is extremely loyal. He is my best friend, and one of the best coworkers I’ve ever had. He loves going to school, and he greets every student as they walk through the doors of the school. When someone drops a pencil, he is a gentleman and picks it up. When a student is having an emotional day, he gives them a hug or a kiss to make everything better. When a student cannot focus to read a book, he tells that student, “We can do it together.” When a student with down syndrome has a day without any behavior issues, he becomes the best playmate. When I have a bad day, he snuggles in close and says, “It’s okay, mom. I’m here for you. Tomorrow is a new day.” When my daughter, who just recently started having seizures, has a medical issue, he’s right there…comforting her and hugging her. This dog immediately impacts lives.
Archie, I cannot thank you enough for everything you did to help train this dog. You were his very first companion, and you helped shape him into an incredible gift for this world. He is changing lives. You have changed lives. Your life has transformed, and I am so incredibly proud of you. – Erica Tedder
Erica & Truman