Thirteen years ago, the inspiration for Freedom Dogs came to founder Beth Russell while on an airplane back East with founding Freedom Dog Charlie. A fellow passenger began discussing the needs for alternative therapies to help wounded warriors returning from combat with the hidden injuries of Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injuries. Beth’s seatmate was convinced that specialty trained service dogs could make a huge contribution to their recovery – Beth was hooked and Freedom Dogs was born!
It can be subtle like a gentle nudge, but whatever it is, dogs are intimately connected to our deepest emotions and behaviors, which is why the Freedom Dogs organization is so crucial to warriors’ recovery from the stress of combat. The comfort of a dog’s knowing gaze or an outstretched paw or muzzle can calm a situation for someone feeling the isolated suffering that PTSD or TBI can bring.
Just like a Marine preparing for battle, it takes an incredible amount of training for a Freedom Dog to be ready for companionship. Dedicated, professional trainers begin training a new Freedom Dog as early as 8 weeks old. The training takes approximately 24 months to complete and then the dogs are paired with Marine candidates through two programs.
Freedom Dogs relies on its generous sponsors and donors for the funding of the program. The cost of training a Freedom Dog is about $50,000.
There is some exciting news for Freedom Dogs coming later this spring. After “borrowing” facilities in the Oceanside area, they will be opening a fully functioning training center adjacent to Camp Pendleton Marine base. The Freedom Dogs Training Center is close to their served client base in the Wounded Warrior Battalion and will have complete training and dog care facilities for the program’s dogs, trainers and service member clients.
For information on the progress of the construction and how you can contribute to its development, please visit www.freedomdogs.org.