ICAN helped me “man up.” What I thought a man was, was a twisted and tainted view from years of criminal mind set and alcohol and drug addiction which in turn fueled my in and out of lock up lifestyle since a youth. Being physically, emotionally, and mentally abused as a youngster confused me and distorted my ability to love and be loved correctly. In the process I lacked in the area of communication and expression to others and myself. These behaviors went from the home to the streets. Thus began years of pain and disregard for many people including myself.
This wonderful dog I will be talking about is named Renn. These are some training as well as personal thoughts I am sharing with you. Renn is such a unique dog in so many different ways. When I first received him, I started out by spending a week or so just bonding with him. I knew right away he was going to be something special. As the weeks went by, I assessed his behaviors and strengths as well as his weaknesses.
At such a young age, Ogie is already so intelligent. He has taught me that the slower and more consistent you are, the faster your dog will learn. Ogie is my first dog with ICAN and I see such potential in him. However, it’s a two way street. He helps me see potential in myself as well. I can honestly say he has touched my life, and that is something you simply cannot train.
When I became an ICAN handler, I came in thinking I had it together, but quickly found out I had it together only on the surface. I have had to reach down to the very bottom of my soul and deal with all the weaknesses I never chose to deal with before. That love that I was looking for was found through the forgiving hearts of these beautiful dogs.
In July of 2012, I met Melody, a beautiful yellow Lab/Golden mix puppy, and was placed in charge of her training and care. It was slow, difficult work, but as I helped Melody along the path to becoming an ICAN service dog, she also helped me to deconstruct my psychic prison. I am freer than I have been in years, and I owe this to the people and pups of the ICAN program. They really do change lives at both ends of the leash.
What I have gotten out of training ICAN’s service dogs is a sense of peace. Nina taught me that we had to work together as a team, and to be the best we could be. It is not everyday that you get an opportunity to be a part of a team… to trust one another completely. Thank you to all the ICAN staff, and to the dogs that give us the ablity to live a normal life.
I have been involved in the ICAN program just over two years and have trained three dogs. ICAN has been a blessing to me since coming to IWP. Being an ICAN handler has been a learning experience as well as a life changing experience. I have been trusted with the responsibility of caring for these dogs. Not only to feed, walk, and exercise the dog, but to train them so they can make a difference in someone’s life, like they have done for me.
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Photos by Liz Kaye