Hi there & welcome to BdaKiNE.com
I attended San Diego City Councilmember, Lorie Zapf’s Volunteer Appreciation Day to cheer on my friend Beth Russell as she received an award for the outstanding work she does and continues to do.
In 2006, Beth pioneered the use of service dogs for Marines when she founded Freedom Dogs. They are an all volunteer, private nonprofit that trains service dogs for the Marines at Camp Pendleton who are suffering from the physical and emotional trauma of war. Nearly half of the 1.6 million Warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking benefits for disabilities. It’s estimated that once an hour, a veteran or service member dies as a result of suicide. As I’m sure you may know, more of our U.S. soldiers die from suicide than combat.
Thankfully, Freedom Dogs has not lost any of the Marines in their program. The Freedom Dogs complete a two year program of special training before being paired with a wounded warrior. A key aspect of their training, is learning to problem solve and think on their feet/paws. Some examples of their assistive behaviors include:
Leaning into a warrior when anxiety is increasing
Providing a barrier between the warrior and someone getting too close
Nudging the warrior to alert him or her to an unexpected person approaching
Turning lights on when nightmares occur & turning lights off when the warrior returns to sleep
Assisting with getting up in the morning by reinforcing an appropriate response to the alarm clock
Retrieving keys, medical equipment and other items
Bracing to help with getting in and out of a chair or to lift limbs
Opening cupboards, file cabinets, appliances or handicapped door and elevators
Once the service dog and trainer have completed their training, they are paired up with a Warrior assigned by the Wounded Warrior Battalion-West. For approximately nine months, the trainer, service dog, and Marine will work closely with the Warrior’s medical care providers to help them transition from military to civilian life by customizing the dog training to each Warrior’s specific needs.
The work they do is so successful that Beth isn’t the only member of the organization to receive awards. Charlie, the first Freedom Dog, was given the Real Hero Award by the American Red Cross in 2010. And in 2014, the American Red Cross awarded Melissa Ramirez and her Freedom Dog, Gunner, the Real Hero Award.
When retired Navy Corpsman, Melissa Ramirez returned from two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, she was diagnosed with PTSD which prevented her from going out in public. After teaming up with Freedom Dog Gunner, she was able to transition back to civilian life. She says that if it wasn’t for Gunner, she wouldn’t be here today.
KPBS did a fabulous story on Retired Marine Lance Corporal, Carlos Cruz and his Freedom Dog Logan, which I highly recommend http://www.freedomdogs.org/even-the-devil-cant-fool-a-dog/. What these Warriors go through is totally surreal and unimaginable to me, I have nothing but respect and admiration for them. It doesn’t matter what your political beliefs are, I think we can all agree on the importance of supporting these young men and women who risk their lives to defend the freedom that we often take for granted.
Thank you for visiting BdaKiNE.com & have a grateful day
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