INDIANAPOLIS — For more than a year, we’ve been following the training of service dogs with ICAN, the Indiana Canine Assistance Network.
The dogs are trained by handlers at Pendleton Correctional Facility, as well as the Indiana Women’s Prison. We’ve watched as handlers prepare the dogs for their life-changing work, and now comes graduation. One of the clients paired with a dog is Shennea Dixon, who’s new life partner is Renn. To protect and serve, ICAN service dog Renn is named in honor of fallen IMPD officer, Perry Renn.
“He definitely has a regal kind of protective side to him and I feel like that was kind of passed down,” Dixon said. Dixon is working with Sonya Hulfachor, an ICAN handler, to learn how to use Renn’s skills to help her.
“I have a rare disease which causes me to get tumors in my body, particularly in my brain and spinal cord,” Dixon said.
In January 2015, she had a surgery to remove a tumor, and woke up unable to move her legs. She’s in the process of learning how to walk again. It’s something Renn can help her with.
Hulfachor is Dixon’s training partner at the Indiana Women’s Prison, but Richard Simmons, a handler from Pendleton, worked with Renn to make him the dog he is today.
“Shennea is one inspiring woman,” Hulfachor said. “She has gone through a lot and she has stayed positive. I can honestly say this team training has changed my life just a little bit more, just by meeting her and getting to work with her.”
And Renn will change Shennea’s life. Whether it’s walking through doors, getting on elevators, or just day-to-day tasks, Dixon and Renn are partners for life.
“My new buddy to go through this life together, to be there for me, because sometimes you can feel alone when you’re dealing with a disability,” Dixon said.