Freedom Service Dogs of America is a Denver-based nonprofit founded in 1987 by Michael and PJ Roche. Michael was an EMT who became paralyzed when his ambulance was involved in an accident. His wife PJ was a dog trainer and she believed that their border collie Oreo would be able to help her husband regain the sense of freedom he lost.
When they saw what Oreo did for Michael, they knew that others could benefit from the assistance of service dogs.
Custom Trained Dogs for Varied Client Needs
The mission of Freedom Service Dogs, established by the Roches and carried on today, is to enhance the lives of people with disabilities by transforming shelter dogs into service dogs and custom training them for individual client needs.
Clients include children, veterans and active duty military and other adults. Their disabilities include autism, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Since being founded in 1987, Freedom Service Dogs has paired more than 350 client-dog teams at no charge to the client. The cost to train one dog is more than $30,000, and it takes seven–10 months to train each dog.
Freedom Service Dogs has helped many individuals such as Natalie. Natalie has a rare auto-immune disorder that causes blood clots. It caused substantial damage both physically and cognitively, limiting her independence and halting her career.
Natalie and her service dog Kohlie were matched together in 2013. Kohlie helps her with stability and balance, retrieves items for her and is a constant companion. With the help of Kohlie, Natalie was able to visit her daughter in California and take a mega road trip with her granddaughter.
Kohlie and I go everywhere together. She gave me the freedom to be independent – she gave me my life back, says Natalie.
For information about applying for a service dog, volunteer opportunities, upcoming events or making a donation, visit freedomservicedogs.org or call (303) 922-6231.