Thursday, December 31, 2009

Picture Perfect -- Pup Photo Session

Smoke’s Pup Crew had an adventure near the end of 2009. They traveled to the Tony Stewart racing shop on the northwest side of Indianapolis for their very own photo shoot.

Carl Frye, the photographer who expertly captured the pups’ personalities when they were 6 weeks old, graciously volunteered to capture their adolescent personalities at 20 weeks of age. The main difference between now and then? What were slightly squirmy seven-pound puppies are now energized 35-pound, 6-month-old adolescents with insatiable curiosity and boundless energy. What hasn’t changed? They still are adorable.

Enjoy these photos and marvel along with us at how much the pups have matured. (Need a photographer for a special event? Contact Carl at
DORA (above)
HUNTER (below)

LILY (below)
RACER (below)
RILEY (below)

BELLA (below)BRISTOL (below)

DEGA (below)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Pups Perform! Videos & Photos

Want to see some amazing video footage of Smoke's Pup Crew in action? Click HERE to watch a 10 minute performance by the pups as the handlers at Plainfield Correctional Facility demonstrate the puppies' skills. The handlers were demonstrating (for prison staff and for Tony Stewart Foundation reps who came to watch) several of the commands the pups have mastered.

In this video, you'll watch as each handler requests behaviors from the puppies and the skilled pups respond. Here are some of the commands you'll see in action and an explanation of why they will be important when the dog enters the profession of service work.

TOUCH - the dog touches the handler's hand or another object with its nose; touch is put to practical use when a person with a disability asks his service dog to open a door by "touching" the auto-open button with its nose.
SHAKE - the dog raises a paw from the ground into the handler's hand; shake is important for grooming purposes when a person with a disability wants to trim the dog's toenails.
BACK UP - the dog walks backward from the handler; this is an important behavior since a person in a wheelchair must maneuver the chair, meaning the dog must be able to move in tandem with the chair's direction.
LEAVE IT - the dog ignores the temptation to pay attention to something or someone other than its handler; when working for a person with a disability, a service dog must be able to ignore distractions so that its sole focus is on its person and assisting them. That means ignoring squirrels, other people, loud noises, and bouncing tennis balls as you will see in the video!

All of these behaviors and many more are vital to service dogs working safely and effectively alongside their person.

The audio isn't great given that we were recording in a large gymnasium, but the video should give you an idea of just how far these nine little guys have come and give you an idea of how skilled the handlers who train for ICAN are. All those clicks you hear throughout the video are the sound that the "training clickers" make. The training clicker sound lets the dog know that that he or she has performed the correct behavior that the handler asked for.

After the nine pups finished their performance, IT WAS PLAY TIME! Watch the puppies at play outside and in the baby pool! The last and larger dog to approach the pool is Daddy Bodhi who was visiting the pups that day. Finally, check out the photos after this video of the handlers the day of the performance.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bella's Little "Problem"

Remember Bella? Sweet, adorned in pink, adorable Bella?

Yep, that's her. Now, replace that sweet little doggie-mouth with an ugly little growl. Hard to imagine, isn't it? Before you get too worried, DON'T ! All ICAN dogs in training develop little quirks and behavior issues as they start to mature, and little Bella's quirk was to stop sharing nicely with others. You know how kids go though that stage of not sharing, of thinking everything is theirs and no one else should be able to touch or play with it. Well, that's what Bella was doing.

The handlers at Plainfield Correctional Facility were quick to share with ICAN staff that Bella was turning into a bully. The handlers knew that the sooner a behavior can be positively modified, the better for the puppy and its future success in the program, so they reached out to ICAN staff.

ICAN staff knew just what to do. Bella came to the ICAN office for an "intervention". The intervention involved a fake arm tied to a long stick, a rawhide, Bella, and a whole lotta patience from ICAN staff. Bella was given the rawhide (the item we wanted her to share and give up easily when asked to do so) and allowed to chew on it. Then, the arm was extended toward Bella and its hand placed firmly on the rawhide. If Bella got growly or nipped at the hand, the hand remained pressing down on the rawhide UNTIL Bella calmed herself. When Bella calmed herself, the hand was removed and she was allowed to freely chew on the rawhide.

This was repeated over and over (and over and over) until the hand could touch the rawhide without Bella reacting. Treats eventually were introduced when Bella would give up the rawhide, helping her understand that giving up her rawhide resulted in positive things -- if she gave up the rawhide calmly she received a treat in exchange.

I wish everyone could have seen little Bella's amazing transformation from being growly to being very calm and willing to share. ICAN staff and the handlers at Plainfield continue to work with Bella in ways that promote her new-found inclination to share. So, the happy ending to this story is that Bella is back at Plainfield and doing well !!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Art With Heart

The level of dog training expertise we are seeing in the handlers at the Plainfield Correctional Facility continues to impress all of us at ICAN. And we found out recently their talent doesn't stop there as evidenced by some amazing artwork that was given to ICAN by one of the dog handlers.

O'Neill, who trains puppy Charlotte, presented ICAN with a lovely hand drawn handkerchief depicting the partnership between ICAN, the Tony Stewart Foundation, and the ICAN dogs and their handlers. Using very small colored pencils on a piece of white fabric approximately 15 x 15 inches in size, O'Neill put his creative talents to work in creating the amazing artwork you see above featuring - who else - puppy Charlotte (and her brother Dega). O'Neill presented his masterpiece to ICAN staff and to a representative of the Stewart Foundation a couple weeks ago, and everyone was in awe of his innate drawing talent. (And what a small world it is - many years ago, a couple of O'Neill's family members raced against Tony Stewart on track!)

What's in store for this very special piece of artwork? Stay tuned to find out. Thank you to O'Neill for channeling his talent into something that touched all of our hearts at ICAN.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Three videos are attached as a movie or as links - and all are about Smoke's Pup Crew!

Get ready to try and accept the fact that the large puppies you see on this video are indeed Smoke's Pup Crew! You know, those tiny little puppies you followed from birth on the Puppy Cam? Now, Smoke's Pup Crew are 14 weeks old - and oh my gosh - you won't believe how much they know (more on that in a future blog, but let's just say that these puppies at 14 weeks are about ready to pass their Level 1 certification of skills). Precocious? YES! Advanced? YES! Adorable? YES! Again, ICAN sends its thanks out to the Plainfield Correctional Facility and to the trainers there who have put these puppies on an amazing path to service work. And while these puppies work hard each day, they also have lots of time for play as you're about to see.

And, in case you missed the airing of Pet Pals TV on Channel 13 last month or this month, check out these video links. In this first LINK (click LINK to view videos), Smoke's Pup Crew is the first story. In this second and most recent video LINK, the story is closer to the end (about the 14 minute marker) but there's more of a focus on the prison training with footage inside the Plainfield Correctional Facility.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Riley on Furlough

Puppy Riley visited with Tony Stewart Foundation staff on Tuesday of last week during an impromptu lunch and visit to a local pet supply store.
She was on her best behavior and it's a good thing! The manager at our lunch location needed a little convincing that she was a service dog in training given her age and small size. But Riley stood up to this test and conducted herself just like a proper worker dog would. Over the next 3 hours, Riley did not utter one inappropriate bark and kept her bladder manners in mind. As for her loose-leash walking training, she was a tad challenging, but then again she's only 3 months old!

Inside the pet supply store, she made friends with an over-anxious Pugle dog, and while outside the store she befriended a very sweet Terrier.

The trip concluded with a visit to the Tony Stewart racing office where Riley made a beeline for Tony's mom's office! Inside Pam's office were a woman and her little daughter who were visiting. Riley immediately snatched up one of the child's Beenie-Babies for herself (which she had to give back). But, how wonderful to watch Riley interact with this young child who might have been a year and a month or two old. Riley was calm, but at the same time interested in the child. Calm but interested are good traits for a service dog in training, especially since Riley's future may involve assisting a child managing a disability!

After nearly 3 full hours of socializing, Riley began her car trip back to the ICAN office. Within seconds of leaving the race store, she was fast asleep.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Yes, those are feathers sticking up from puppy Charlotte's rump in the above picture. And yes, that's a red wattle hanging from her chin just like a turkey has. Furlough families who take ICAN pups in training out into the community to introduce them to new sights and sounds can be VERY creative.

Jennifer, a furlougher who had puppy Charlotte recently on her release from prison, entered both her own black Labrador and Charlotte in the North Salem Old Fashion Days Pet Parade.

Charlotte was dressed up as a turkey, as you can see. The black Lab was dress in camouflage with a fake gun. THEY WERE AWARDED FIRST PLACE HONORS!

While a bit premature, Happy Halloween and Early Thanksgiving to all !

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Meet the PCF Handlers Who Train for ICAN

Introducing the handlers at Plainfield Correctional Facility who are training the Tony Stewart Foundation litter. These guys deserve a round of applause for all the effort they are putting into training these nine energetic pups. (In fact, I am applauding them right now as I babysit Riley who's out of prison on furlough....she's interested in everything, has to be watched every second, and is quite vocal! She's lovely - just has to be watched nonstop.)

John with Bella

Casey with Dega

Jeff with Hunter

Stephen with Riley

O'Neill and Charlotte

David with Bristol

Brandon and Dora

Kris and Riley

Sam and Lily

Corey with Charlotte

Jason with Hunter

Chuck with Bella

Jason with Lily

Florian with Dora

Dustin with Racer

Eric with Bristol

Jason with Racer

Dora Does Her Flying Nun Imitation

For those who remember the TV show The Flying Nun, this photo of Dora needs no explanation. Looking at it in racing terms - it's her spoiler, her aerodynamic package!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


What a party! The ICAN Puppy Shower for these nine growing bundles of fur and energy was fantastic. Over 125 people attended and the vast majority of them made financial contributions to support the puppies. Each attendee was invited to make a donation in honor of the puppy of their choice. Each pup had its own photo display and donation box (with a racing theme, of course, in honor of their benefactor Tony Stewart!). It was fun to watch our guests go over to the puppy pen, play with the pups, decide which was their "favorite", then walk to the donation box and insert a contribution to support that dog.

The pups were in a pen the entire night EXCEPT when they were being cuddled by our guests or having their photo taken by ICAN's friend Carl Frye (Need a great photographer? In other words, the puppies weren't in their pen that much!
Total funds donated that night were $6691.00, and we are so appreciative of everyone's generosity. How do those contributions help? Let me share that health care for the nine pups for their first year of life will total around $6750 (preventative care, vaccines, spay/neuter, for example). The puppies food cost for their first year of training could be covered by the donations raised at the shower. With ICAN having 50+ dogs in its training program, you can see why donation such as this are significant to our success at training and placing skilled service dogs with children and adults with disabilities.

Of special interest to people was the display with a photo showing each puppy and a letter written by that pup's handler at Plainfield Correctional Facility (PCF). Underneath the handlers letters on display, were photos of ICAN clients and dogs we have placed together. I can't tell you how many guests stopped at that large display of letters and read each letter word by word. I also can't tell you how many positive comments we received from these guests expressing how moved they were by the handler's words and how dedicated each handler sounded. Several guests elected to write the handlers a return note of encouragement and thanks on the poster board we had out for that very reason.

By the end of the night, we had nine EXHAUSTED puppies on our hands. These photos tell you just how hard those nine pups worked at the puppy shower!

Thanks to everyone who attended the shower to share in the joy of these nine puppies, and special thanks to those who made a donation to help the pups in their 2 years of training. Want to make a donation yourself in honor of one of these puppies? Visit and click on Sponsor A Dog. You'll find photos of each of the nine pups there and you can pick which one you want to sponsor. In return for your donation you receive a sponsorship certificate and a photo of you puppy! Thanks in advance.