An 8-week old Labrador puppy wriggles in anticipation behind a chain link fence with her littermates. She's a bundle of energy and love. Some puppies will become a family's pet. Others might become a companion for an empty nester couple. But there are a few special puppies that have what it takes to become an ADI certified assistance dog.
The trainer picks up the Lab puppy and brings her into a big room with toys, strange noises, upside-down umbrellas, and so many other new things. The trainer studies the puppy to see if she has the right attitude to become a service dog some day. A dog dedicated to serving her client with total devotion. A dog that enables her client's life in ways big and small. The trainer watches the puppy intently, trying to envision the spirit of the full grown dog. The puppy is cusrious and attracted to new things. The trainer decides.
Flash forward about 2 years and that same puppy is now matched with her client. The dog and the client are a brand new "team". The client now has a new helper and a life-long friend. The puppy is now a confident, well-trained and dedicated service dog. Ready to do whatever is asked of her by her client.
Officially, Fidos for Freedom is an all-volunteer organization that provides trained service dogs for people with disabilities. Fidos does change the lives of their clients. Unofficially, Fidos also helps puppies become the best dog that they can be, confident, ready for the world and dedicated to service.
This partnership of incredibly dedicated volunteers, beautifully trained dogs and very generous donors has created something very special in the Baltimore-Washington corridor -- an organization that serves those across a wide spectrum of needs. Best of all, it does it aty a very minimal expense. This is very impressive organization!
In my three years as a volunteer at Fidos for Freedom, I have had a college-level education in the lives of people with disabilities, service dogs and therapy dogs, and as importantly, in the wonderful people who dedicate their precious time to support this community. That short volunteer time frame has been enough for me to watch a puppy evolve from a fuzzy ball into a fully-functioning service dog to a wheelchair bound client. I've also been moved as an experienced assist dog "transfers" and recovers from the passing of their original client, and begins to beautifully serve a new client. Needless to say, that sort of output from one's volunteer investment warms any heart.
To me, the most fascinating aspect of this organization is that, unlike many similar organizations, Fidos only charges a modest fee to its clients, as opposed to tens of thousands of dollars that some others charge We are able to do this as a result of a very engaged and generous community, and some equally generous breeders.
Being a healthcare professional, I am also impressed with the response of patients to our therapy dogs. As the literature around pets and health continues to expand, the value of this service, wherein we sent teams of therapy dogs to hospitals, nursing homes, college campuses and other situations, increases rapidly. These, too, are all volunteers, dedicated to improving the lives of those in need.
I am honored to be associated with Fidos for Freedom!
I have been a volunteer with Fidos For Freedom for more than 13 years. At first, I thought it was all about the dogs, but I have come to understand that it is really about the people.
The people in hospitals, nursing homes, and health care settings who are lonely or in pain or afraid - Fidos Therapy Dogs visit them and bring the affection and companionship that only a dog can give.
People with disabilities or hearing loss who simply desire a freer, more independent life - Fidos Assistance Dogs bring them all this and more; research indicates that having an assistance dog increases social attraction from other human beings - thus reducing the social isolation that many people with disabilties are subjected to.
The people who freely give their time, their treasure, and their talent - to help small cute puppies become the indispensable life partners they will someday be. The careful breeders who donate one of their special pups to become such a dog out of an abundance of love for their breed and a desire to do good in this world. The people who rescue puppies and understand that it is a very special dog that is now unwanted but can become the most important dog in the world for a person with a disability or hearing loss.
The people who shepherd new clients through the process to become an assistance dog team or who share their lessons, good and bad, about how to be the best assistance dog partner you can be. And of course, the clients themselves. Fidos clients have taught me so much about the resilience of the human spirit, about the importance of never giving up in the face of disease or disability; and about the importance of community.
I am so privileged to be associated with this community, Fidos For Freedom.
I began as a Fidos volunteer in 2001. I started because my daughter wanted to be a part of Fidos Junior Volunteer program. The more I saw of Fidos, and the more I learned about its mission, the more impressed and intrigued I was. That mission is to make a difference in peoples' lives in the Baltimore Washingtion area through hearing dogs, service dogs, and therapy dogs. I saw how dedicated volunteers made a positive impact in the lives of people with disabilities - not because they were paid to do so, but because they wanted to make a difference in this world. So I began to do more. I got involved with the Fidos Therapy Dog Program - Fidos volunteers take their personal pets to nursing homes, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities to bring residents and patients the affection and companionship that only a dog can give. My Pomeranian Mischief was a favorite of people who like little dogs! My next big leap was to join the Fidos Training Department and take a puppy or assistance dog in training into my home and heart. I have either puppy raised or trained at least 10 Fidos assistance dogs! And I became a member of the Board of Directors as another way to share my skills and talents with this organization and the amazing people who are a part of it. What we do still stirs my heart after 11 years - I feel so privileged to be a part of it!
Wonderful volunteers, great dogs. constant in the community for >25 yrs . Clients treated as part of family and offered support before, during and after placement of assistance dog. Therapy Dogs visit community and love everyone.
Fidos is a wonderful volunteer organization.I have been a volunteer for over 11years and have participated in most of their programs in some roll. The people I have met are genuinely dedicated to their mission and spend countless hours working with dogs, clients and the general public, all to improve someone's life with these special dogs. My favorite comments from audience members after watching a demonstrationn were "the dogs never barked and all got along with each other, and did exactly what you wanted !! Do you drug them??? " Of course NOT, these dogs prove that love and consistant good training make dogs a valued member of the society whether working for a disabled client or cheering a lonely widow in a nursing center.
Fidos For Freedom is a non profit group that raises/trains service dogs for hearing and mobility impaired folks that we like to think of as extended family. With the time, blood, sweat and tears that we all put into the great results that we get for hearing and service teams, we do become like family......albeit good or not! The work starts when we get puppies or dogs up to 1 yr old donated to us by breeders, rescues and the public. These pups are tested to see if they have the demeanor/personality and stamina that we require for a working dog. They live with puppy raisers, in our prison program and with trainers until they are matched with the clients. It is neat to see that the dogs usually do the matching and when the humans figure it out, it becomes official. I have been part of the group for nearly 8 years now and have witnessed many miracles from our client teams when they move through the crowd someplace and just shine as a team and talk to people as to what having a service dog has done to change their lives.....it changes all of our lives for the better. We also have a therapy dog program that works with schools, libraries, nursing and rehab centers, hospice and cancer treatment facilities. We also do outreach for end of year studying for exams at local colleges and universities on an as needed basis...we always get asked back......the dogs are the heart of our group...the humans just hold the leashes and provide some directions. That is pretty much the way I see Fidos For Freedom.
I have been involved with Fidos For Freedom for over 6 years. I started out as a puppy raiser and have moved onto becoming a board member and treasurer of the organization. I have personally seen how our service dogs have positively changed and influenced the lifes of our clients and their families. The most profound changes I have seen have been to our Inmate trainers in our prison program. I have been a prison dog trainer for 6 years. The inmates involved with training our service dogs in training leave when their sentences are over and become confident citizens re-integrating with society once again. It is rewarding to see the dogs/clients working out in public together knowing that we have given them a basis for success in all areas of their lives. I have found this to be my passion. Unfortunately, it is nota paying job, but one that provides me with enormous satisfaction knowing that I am making a difference in the lives of others.