Last month, ICAN volunteer Jean Cranfill sat with joyous tears in her eyes as she watched ICAN Ziggy receive his diploma at ICAN’s spring 2023 graduation ceremony.
The yellow lab, who recently became a facility service dog at Homecroft Elementary School, was the first dog she and her husband Bryan had ever furloughed since becoming volunteers in 2022.
“I was like a proud mama,” Jean said. “To know we had a small part in his success and to see him paired with the person he is meant to be with … it was just an indescribable feeling seeing him graduate.”
While Jean is new to furloughing, she is no stranger to ICAN. However, her introduction to the organization is a story of tragedy.
In 2015, her daughter’s best friend, Hannah Wilson, was murdered.
To help Hannah’s mother, Dr. Robin Wilson, and her sister, Haley Wilson, heal, a family friend honored Hannah’s memory by sponsoring and naming an ICAN puppy after her.
“I saw how ICAN brought healing to this grieving family,” Jean recalled. “It was such a beautiful experience to see Robin and Hailey receive joy and love from that dog.”
And while ICAN Hannah did not graduate from the program, Jean believes Hannah would have loved and appreciated the dog even more because it would have matched her free-spiritedness.
“Hannah just wanted everyone to live their best life,” she laughed, “so for ICAN Hannah, if that’s as a pet rather than a service dog, then so be it.”
Following Hannah’s passing, Jean, determined to learn more about ICAN, soon attended her first Wine & Wags fundraiser.
“The client and handler testimonies I heard at the event moved me to tears,” Jean remembered. “I left there knowing I needed to be part of ICAN.”
Her long-term goal was to become a furlough volunteer because she wanted hands-on training with the dogs. To ensure she had the time to dedicate to ICAN, Jean held off until she retired to begin her training.
Finally, after years of waiting, Jean retired in the summer of 2022 and immediately enrolled in ICAN’s Furlough Foundations class.
“This is the best retirement gig,” Jean exclaimed. “It’s how I always knew I wanted to spend my time after I stopped working.”
In addition to ICAN Ziggy, she and her husband have also been apart of ICAN Angus and ICAN Rab’s training journey.
They’ve also volunteered in other forms, including litter sitting, outreach events, and delivering ICAN Puppy Love Valentines. Jean said puppy raising is in their future too.
“This organization keeps me learning,” Jean said. “I’m always learning new cues, new tips, new processes. I never want to stop learning because I always want to be the best furlougher I can be.”
That determination and drive keep Jean motivated.
“I am constantly thinking about the potential for my dogs because I know they will bring such joy to a client someday and change somebody’s life … and that makes it all worth it.”
You too can make a difference in the lives of Hoosiers like Jean 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.