June 19th, 2012
June 19th, 2012
They’re unwanted animals, abandoned at the dog shelter. But an Englewood charity is training them to be priceless companions to injured military members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Freedom Service Dogs is a non-profit committed to pairing service animals with soldiers like retired Marine Lance Corporal Richard Robinson. After four years in the service, and two tours in Iraq, he came home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was so debilitating, he rarely left his home, and didn’t like to be around other people. Then came Dexter the dog.
“So with Dexter, he kind of brings me out of it, and brings me back to realize, ok, not everybody is out to hurt you,” Robinson told FOX 31 Denver.
Dexter is one of the dozens of former shelter dogs now trained to help soldiers who are having troubles readjusting to civilian life.
“Recently in the past five years we’ve been doing a lot of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injuries. So the dogs can do things like open and close doors, take the laundry out of the dryer, open the refrigerator and bring them a bottle of water,” said Sharan Wilson, executive director of Freedom Service Dogs.
For 25 years, the Colorado charity has been training abandoned dogs to become service dogs for the disabled. Now they have a program called “Operation Freedom,” where pets help vets.
“I think (the dogs) just sort of know that they’re making an impact on someone’s life,” Wilson said.
“If I start having flashbacks, he’ll come bring me back into the moment, let me know I’m not over there (in Iraq),” Robinson said.
Not every dog is a perfect fit. Only about one in 100 dogs can make it through the training program. But they’ve never had a pairing that didn’t work.
And some, like Richard and Dexter, are perfect matches from the moment they meet.
“It’s nice to come back to some attention, and loving and is gonna give it to you,” Robinson said.