On December June 16th, 2016, the Indiana Women's Prison proudly hosted graduation of seven ICAN dogs. Oakley, Roscoe, Oliver, Justice, Tuck and Renn, along with all of the wonderful handlers, proudly held their heads high as they walked the ceremonial procession into the Winter of Oz themed ceremony. At this ceremony, special tribute was paid to the fallen officer Perry Renn as the dog named in his honor graduated that night.
The celebration was attended by more than 250 guests including family members of both the clients and the handlers, friends, previous clients, volunteers, ICAN supporters, Department of Corrections Staff, and many others who believe in the powers of paws and the miracles that happen at both ends of the leash.
Lynn Renn, Perry Renn's wife, delivered a tear-jerking speech about the impact Renn had on her and her family. Sonya, one of the handlers, read a powerful letter written by Richard, Renn's handler at the Pendelton facility, which can be found here.
After that, each of the handlers spoke about their experiences with the clients during Team Training. They shared the gamut of emotions including the highs of meeting their dog's forever person and watching the transfer of the bond, to the lows of having to say goodbye to the source of their happiness for the past several months. Handler Stephanie shared about how Oliver came into her life during a very difficult time. For most of her life, she had lived in fear of people, but Oliver taught her to approach each scary situation with patience and courage. As she says, Oliver left his imprint forever on her life.
Attendees watched the powerful video, ICAN Bring Hope, as photos taken during Team Training played on a large screen. These photos helped attendees understand all of the time, effort, fun, and emotions it takes to make the partnerships a success. The evening closed with a beautiful song ("Home" From Still…Dreaming Wide Awake) sung by Shennea Dixon, the client recieving Renn. By the end of the night, there was not a dry eye in the auditorium.
Please visit ICAN's Graduation Info page to learn when ICAN's 2019 Graduations will be taking place.
If you wish to read the Handler's Perspective that was read that evening at the ceremony, you may find it here.
View some of the photos from the Graduation Ceremony below (Photos by Lix Kaye Photography)