Freddy is a nine-month-old service dog-in-training in the Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN) program, who is sponsored by Crowe through a grant from the Crowe Foundation. Dogs who graduate from ICAN are placed with children and adults with disabilities and disorders – from paralysis to diabetes and autism and even veterans with PTSD – to help them be more independent. Prison inmates train service dogs like Freddy, and they have full-time responsibility caring for and teaching their dogs the skills necessary to be service dogs. In the process, inmates gain valuable skills that they can use when they return to society.
In a letter to Crowe’s CEO Jim Powers (Indianapolis), Freddy’s inmate handler shared how the experience is changing his life and those around him. He shared, “Your sponsorship did not just go toward the goal of enhancing one’s life through the acquisition of a service dog. Your sponsorship supported so much more….correctional officers, nursing staff, counselors and many other prisoners.” He added that you can see Freddy’s positive impact in several ways – from more frequent smiles and enhanced conversations to the overall improved mental health and mood among inmates and staff whenever Freddy is around. “Prison is an environment where one infrequently encounters a genuine smile,” he shared. “Freddy has changed that for many individuals…I promise you it would bring tears to your eyes to see a correctional officer shed his or her exterior demeanor to kneel down to play with Freddy or to witness a hardened inmate regress to a behavior reminiscent of a long-lost childhood.”