After years of service in “borrowed” spaces, Freedom Dogs, a leading specialty service dog organization, has opened a new training facility in San Diego County.

The non-profit, dedicated to speeding the recovery and enhancing the lives of wounded service members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), had long dreamed of having a dedicated space to work with its dogs, trainers and participants. This fall, with the help of generous donors, a dedicated Board of Directors, volunteer trainers and the many design and construction “angels” that have become a part of Freedom Dogs’ extended family, the service organization has realized its dream.

Working for years in borrowed space at Camp Pendleton and in rented spaces elsewhere, Freedom Dogs has never wavered in its mission to train service dogs for the Marines of the Wounded Warrior Battalion-West. Today, the specially designed Freedom Dogs Training Center borders on Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, offering close proximity to the base for Marine participants, and a safe place for the service members, trainers and dogs to work together in a supportive and trusted environment.

Another development in the 14-year-old organization’s trajectory is the hiring of its first Executive Director.  Wendy Sabin-Lasker, a North County resident and career non-profit professional, joined Freedom Dogs shortly after the opening of its new center. Sabin-Lasker is working closely with the board to help sustain the organization’s daily operations, and to grow and implement Freedom Dogs’ strategic plans.

Founded in 2006 by Orange, California resident Meribeth (“Beth”) Russell, RN, Freedom Dogs was established to provide “heroes for our heroes.” The former UCSD Medical Center critical-care nurse, both of whose parents were WWII veterans, later trained Charlie, the first Freedom Dog, and continues to be the organization’s lead trainer.

Accredited by The Patriots Initiative and Assistance Dogs International, and almost wholly led and operated by volunteers, the 501c3 nonprofit depends on volunteers and donors to help wounded warriors heal and reconnect with family, work, and community.

Call (760) 696-3076 or visit to learn how you can help.