Behind each Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN) service dog are furlough and puppy raiser volunteers who put in countless hours of work and provide as many purposeful environmental exposures as possible. ICAN volunteer Patrick Forgey is one of these dedicated individuals.
Although Patrick had minimal dog training experience when he became interested in furloughing, he was already familiar with ICAN and was looking for other ways to get involved. In 2020, he decided to take the Foundations class for new volunteers.
While doing the hands-on learning portion of the class, he remembers his mentor asking for someone to step up to work with the dog. Patrick was the first to raise his hand and volunteer.
While usually a reserved person, Patrick surprised himself at that moment. He said, “I didn’t care if I would fail or mess up. It was fun to try it and learn from the failures.”
Since completing the Foundations class, Patrick has raised two puppies, become a mentor to new volunteers, and furloughed service dogs-in-training for a total of 566 days and counting.
When he has a dog on furlough, Patrick can give the dogs a wide variety of unique experiences. He lives on a farm, so the dogs are exposed to big machinery and horses there. He also has taken dogs to Chicago to explore the Shedd Aquarium and the Museum of Science and Industry.
He explains how the farm is a vast field and generally tranquil, while Chicago is noisy and bustling. He said, “It’s cool to see a dog that can handle a wide variety of things.”
Patrick also shared that it’s difficult for him to choose just one favorite experience when it comes to volunteering.
As an experienced volunteer, Patrick was able to go to Pendleton Correctional Facility to work alongside ICAN’s incarcerated handlers to do puppy temperament tests. This was a special experience because he met and talked with the handlers that trained some of his favorite ICAN dogs while at the prison.
Another favorite experience was getting to help with Team Training. Patrick worked one-on-one with clients being paired with an ICAN service dog to teach them the ins and outs of working with the dog and the skills the dog could do to help them to live more independently.
He said, “Nothing beats seeing the dogs I furloughed or puppy raised get to the end goal of being matched with a client. I love seeing what the dog is doing for their person.”
You, too, can make a difference in the lives of Hoosiers, like Patrick, by training a dog for someone in need. If you’d like to help unleash possibilities, contact ICAN Volunteer and Education Manager Julie Mathias at email@example.com,