This year has been anything but normal, but the Can Do Canines community has stepped up to keep our mission moving forward despite unprecedented challenges. As we near the end of the year, we wanted to give an update on the state of the program and our mission to place these special dogs with the people who need them, perhaps now more than ever.
After a brief pause on operations following the initial shutdown in March, Can Do Canines was quickly declared an essential service and allowed to continue operations. Since then, we have continued to train, place and certify new assistance dogs.
Our foster homes continue to house, train and love these dogs. In April, we implemented virtual training classes to provide an opportunity for volunteers to connect with instructors and with each other in lieu of in-person classes. In June, we resumed some socially distanced in-person training opportunities but continue to provide virtual training opportunities as well.
Our prison training program continues to experience some notable changes. In January, we had dogs in seven different prisons. When shelter-in-place orders initiated the closure of these prisons, we were forced to remove about eighty dogs and place them temporarily into volunteer homes. We have since been able to move dogs back into three of these prisons – Jackson Correctional Institution, Stanley Correctional Institution and the Federal Correctional Institution in Waseca. The rest are still not ready for the dog program to return just yet.
Our facility remains closed to the public, but the work continues. We will hold a virtual version of Fetching Ball on February 20, 2021, and we will hold another virtual graduation ceremony on March 13, 2021.
The COVID-19 crisis presented us with many challenges, but also many opportunities. Volunteers, donors, staff members and supporters have stood by our side as we continue to work diligently toward our shared goal. We are so grateful for this community, and wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.