On Valentine’s Day, 24 service dogs who were trained by inmates delivered loving gifts to people all around the city of Indianapolis.
The dogs are part of the ICAN program, an Indianapolis-based service dog program which rehabilitates inmates by allowing them to train the dogs.
The dogs are trained to assist people with disabilities ranging from PTSD to Autism. Three prisons in the Indianapolis region participate in this program. On Valentine’s Day, the dogs ventured out into the city to deliver gifts, accompanied by members of the ICAN staff or volunteers.
People showed joyous reactions to the special surprise deliveries. Many office workers even got down on the ground with the dogs to roll around.
ICAN actually kicked off on Valentine’s Day in 2002. The idea was that of Dr. Sally, Irvin, who founded ICAN. She observed that the dogs rehabilitated the inmates, providing them with loyalty and trust – and this is immensely important for their development and improvement. The prisoners also found a sense of freedom being able to train the dogs.
The program began with about 12 volunteers, who initially started their work in juvenile detention centers. Eventually, the idea came about to try it in maximum security prisons, because the inmates were there much longer, and service dogs require many months of training.
Today, the program has about 50 dogs in constant training with inmates.
Andrew Cole works for ICAN, overseeing the training program at Pendleton Correctional Facility. He emphasizes that this is the best way to turn people around, because it is based purely in selflessness. The prisoners train the dogs to go out into society and help people in need, for the rest of their lives.
I think any program which helps animals help people, and helps people help animals, is a wonderful thing. It spreads positive actions into negative situations. It provides companionship, trust, and purpose to society’s forgotten and forsaken, and therefore gives both the animals and the people a chance to love and be loved.
When someone feels a sense of purpose, they are motivated to do good things. A prisoner can easily feel abandoned, with no hope of recovery. A life of hardship and lack of love undoubtedly produces the actions that lead people into prisons.
When prisoners can encounter dogs who may have faced the same neglect and hardships that they have, but will still relentlessly love others anyway – this allows people to shed their resentment of what happened to them, and look forward with hope to what might be better in the future.
This is a small tale of a wonderful story. The prisoners and the dogs in the ICAN program have their lives changed for the better.
To see how you can contribute to ICAN’s life-changing efforts, please visit their Support Us page on their website.