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.