Joel sat on the edge of his bed. In one hand, he gripped a nearly-empty bottle of Jack Daniel’s. In the other, a bottle full of Percocet. He was a veteran who had survived multiple tours, but at a great cost. The horrors of war had taken their toll, leaving Joel scarred and suffering from PTSD. Joel’s mother had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The thought of losing her reminded him of the many he lost in combat, including his best friend. To add to his suffering, his wife had just miscarried, turning what was once a promise of great joy into sorrow. All the pain was adding up… and being multiplied by his PTSD. It became simply too unbearable. He was tired of hurting. He was tired of living. Joel decided to end his suffering. He would swallow the whole bottle of Percocet and wash it down with the whisky. He was going to kill himself.
But then, there was a scuffling of paws in the room as Joel’s dog, Barrett, came walking in. Barrett cautiously approached the bed. He gently put his paw on Joel’s knee and looked up at him. Joel looked down into Barrett’s eyes. He sensed a deep understanding from his dog. Barrett was comforting Joel in his darkest hour. Barrett understood. He seemed to be saying, It’s okay. I’ve been there myself. We can get through this.
Joel put the bottle down. That night, Barrett saved Joel’s life.
Freedom Service Dogs (FSD) is a non-profit that was founded 26 years ago in Englewood, CO. Their mission is unique. Instead of training dogs that are bred to become service dogs, they train rescue dogs. Their clients include children, veterans, active duty soldiers, and other adults. Their clients generally have disabilities that range from Autism, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Cerebral Palsy, spinal cord injuries, Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The service dogs they provide to clients are completely free of charge.
Once a potential rescue dog is identified, FSD gives the dog a temperament test. “This is an evaluation to identify dogs with the aptitude to work. They must like people and be interested in working,” Karen Morrow, Director of Marketing for FSD, explains. “We see how they respond to being touched and outside stimulus. Also, their behavior around other dogs, food, and treats is taken into consideration.” Should a dog pass the test, he is then rescued if the trainer believes he will be a good service dog.
During his military service, Joel experienced a traumatic brain injury. He suffers from double vision and paralysis on his left leg due to wounds sustained during his tours. After he returned to the States, he was familiar with Freedom Service Dogs and did some volunteer work with them. The team at FDS eventually convinced Joel to apply for a service dog of his own.
Barrett is a golden retriever/lab mix who was abandoned at the Inner Mountain Humane Society. He was just 3 weeks away from being put to sleep when FSD rescued him in 2011. When pairing a dog with a client, Karen tells us, “The pairing, the match, it’s phenomenal. We bring dogs to a client and the dog picks the person.” On March 9, 2012, Barrett chose Joel. Their bond is very unique and special. Joel says friends and family have commented about how much more relaxed he is since receiving Barrett.
The training of one service dog costs $25,000 and takes 7-12 months. Not all the dogs they rescue will graduate to become service dogs. However, FSD is committed to each dog they rescue no matter what. If a dog is unable to graduate the program, FSD works to find the dog a forever home. In 2013, FSD rescued 110 dogs. Out of that 110, 79 were later adopted to loving homes and 31 graduated to become service dogs. That adds up to a lot of expense, and with over 80 people currently on their waiting list, the costs are piling up. Today, we are proud to announce that Chive Charities is donating a $50,000 grant from the Chive Fund to Freedom Service Dogs! This will allow for the training of 2 rescue dogs to become service dogs!
Meet Freedom Service Dogs…