Inspired by service: A therapy dog story
Joni Kahn’s father lived a life of service. During his time fighting in the Korean War, he suffered from frostbite, which caused complications in his old age. When he became despondent after surgery, it took a special service dog to bring a smile back to his face.
A service dog brought comfort to her father
Kahn’s father was a patient at Community Rehabilitation Hospital North. After weeks of watching his condition and mood worsen, Kahn began to wonder if the service animals she saw working around the hospital might make a difference. A recreational therapist reached out to the Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN), and the visit proved to be just the right medicine.
“This dog, Jamie, came into his room and just brightened the whole room,” says Kahn. Jamie’s presence improved her father’s mood when nothing else seemed to be getting through to him. “I hadn’t seen him smile in two weeks.”
Volunteering helped her heal
With her father’s encouragement, Kahn enrolled as a furlough volunteer with ICAN - training dogs like Jamie for a life of service. Kahn soon found that she would learn as much from the service animals as they would learn from her, as they helped her through the grieving process of losing her father from spinal cord tumors.
“It was almost like a gift from my dad, these dogs that were helping me move forward in a positive way.”
Kahn now sponsors Ogie the golden retriever, a service dog she named after her late father. Ogie is only two years old, but he’s already training for the second level of service with ICAN! He’s gearing up to be an ambassador dog so his skills can be put to good use.
“It’s like magic,” says Kahn. “A dog can walk into a room and put their head in the patient’s lap, and instantly reach that place you’ve been trying to reach.”
There are over 20,000 service dogs like Jamie and Ogie in the nation, and they assist Americans with all varieties of disabilities: those with hearing or vision impairments, those suffering from PTSD or other emotional needs, even those with diabetes or who experience seizures. Assistance animals can be a vital part of the care team for patients like these, and often become working companions for life.
Watch below to learn more about Kahn and Ogie’s story, and see how service animal companionship can make a real difference.