By Peggy & Steve Jones, ICAN Furlough Volunteers
Being a part of the ICAN Team has made a major difference in our lives.
We were from the old school of training yanking a choke collar and a gruff NO. Training dogs in a positive manner gives a much quicker and happier response from the dogs. This in turn has given us a gentler and a more caring attitude, not only with the pups, but also towards individuals.
We have found, when you have an ICAN dog with you in public you no longer meet a stranger. Most everyone wants to know about the dog, about the program, and they have to tell you about their dog. On different occasions someone will say I know that dog my son trained them in prison, or a released offender will tell you they were in prison with the ICAN handlers. Once broken parents came up and told us their daughter had just been put in prison. You become a listener and soon (learn how to politely leave the conversation “Parker is telling me he has to go outside”). With time and confidence we are now comfortably able to approach those with challenges or their care givers and inform them of the possibilities of ICAN. Where in the past, we would look away. Having the dog helps break the ice.
We have become more compassionate. When we go into prison we are working with ladies training dogs. We don’t treat them as offender, we don’t judge (there is a Higher Judge). In some cases ICAN people are their only visitors, they look forward to our visits. Like the pups it takes the handler a longer period of time to mature.
In our twelve years with ICAN we have furloughed 74 different dogs. They have lived with us for as little as a day to as long as 8 months. If they appear to have possibilities they are given a chance to mature.
It often is asked do you get attached, “just for a moment”, until you watch a child, afraid to speak, get his ICAN dog and go home bubbling and talking up a storm. Or you hear a Veteran say I can now leave the house my ICAN dog has my back, and he calms my fears so I can sleep.
It is said that ICAN is a win-win-win situation, the client, the dog, the handlers. But wait there is one more win. We are definitely winners being part of this wonderful program.