Shelter Spotlight: Freedom Dogs

by ELYSIAN Magazine

Who we are:

Freedom Dogs is located in Oceanside, California, and serves the Southern California region. We train Specialty Service Dogs for Active-Duty Military and Veterans diagnosed with PTSD and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Our dogs and trainers are paired with participants on a short-term intermittent basis as an adjunct to their recovery in the Partner Program. We provide permanent placement for qualified Service Members in our Partner for Life program.


Our primary need:

Our primary need is money for a facility of our own.


Most memorable rescue story:

There are so many stories of the differences these dogs make in the lives of our participants and of the incredible bond the two of them form.

Something that happens frequently is our dogs form such a close bond to their handler that they become intuitive and respectfully disobedient when necessary. Jake and Tobin were at the park together when someone confronted Jake and raised his anxiety level and his anger. Jake left the park and headed for his truck with Tobin. He sharply told Tobin to get in the truck. Tobin respectfully stayed put. Jake told Tobin again, not quite so nicely and Tobin again held his ground. Jake said, “Fine,” and the two sat under a tree until Jake calmed down. He looked at his buddy, Tobin, and asked “Can we go now?” Tobin jumped up and with tail wagging jumped in the truck. We called this the doggie version of “Give me your keys, you’re not fit to drive.” These dogs are amazing in the many ways they save lives each day!

One of our participants was hospitalized and was told by the VA that he could not have his Service Dog with him. He desperately needed to be with his dog, as his dog needed to be with him. One of our trainers worked tirelessly on getting approval for a visit. After seeing the difference the dog’s presence made for our participant, the dog was welcomed by the staff and our participant attributes his recovery entirely to having his dog by his side. 

We were just informed last month that one of our permanently placed Service Dogs was alerting his handler to the point of being a pest. (The dog wouldn’t get off him, licked him and smelled his breath constantly.) It turned out that his potassium level had dropped so low that the doctors told him he would not have made it if he had not come in to be checked out when he did. He was hospitalized for three days but wouldn’t be here if not for his dog’s alerting. Note: This dog was trained for PTSD-mitigating tasks. These dogs form such a close bond with their handlers that – with our training methods of teaching our dogs to think on their feet – they often learn entirely new behaviors on their own, such as this medical alert.

One of our Marines said our name is appropriate, as Freedom Dogs has given him back his freedom. Before his involvement with us, his wife was his Service Dog, he said with a laugh. He literally could not go anywhere at all without her. Now they are both free 

There are so many stories of our incredible trainers and dogs and their lifelong battle buddies. Our participants credit our dogs with saving their lives. We become a permanent part of those lives. We don’t lose contact, our family just keeps growing.

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