I see the lives of broken men that made bad choices which caused a ripple effect in a negative way. Their actions effected a lot of lives. This program offers a very unique opportunity for these prisoners who took lives to help train dogs that save lives. When you hear them share how sorry they are for the bad that they have done, how they wish they could take back the choices they made so many years ago, you see the redemption in full force. They are giving back. I did not get to meet or see the lives that were hurt by their past actions, but I did get to see the many lives standing in the room that have received one of the dogs that they loved and trained for 2 years, the people that have been impacted in such an amazing way by the ripple effect of doing something unselfish. It is interesting that the prisoners see that these recipients too, are imprisoned. They are imprisoned with some kind of disability—having issues that confine them and keep from experiencing life.
Those that have a disability sometimes feel trapped. Some people have serious health issues that stop them from experiencing the simple joys of life, while others are imprisoned with fear and anxiety. These dogs give people freedom. They give people with disability or fear, a chance for independence. I got to see this amazing redemption first hand. Many tears were shed by all the precious people that feel the ripple effect of this program. They are not afraid anymore, they feel like the joys of life are restored. One family spent most of their child's life at home because he would have 3-4 seizures every day. They could not go anywhere. The seizures were triggered by social anxiety. The dog sensed the seizures before they would happen and was able to calm the boy down. He actually stopped having seizures altogether and with tears this family shared how different their life is now. They can go places, they don't feel trapped, and they have independence again. The boy shared, "Life before Retrieving Independence = BAD, Life after Retrieving Independence = GOOD!"
As we spent our last hours together at the final graduation, I learned that every one of the people that work with the prisoners, the dogs, and the recipients are 100% volunteer. They pour countless hours into this program without making a dime. I found out that 100% of this is non profit, the money raised is for the care of the dogs and the recipients throughout the entire program. There are so many people in the program that do this, not for money, but for the joy of helping others. It is amazing to me all that goes into this program. The breeders, the groomers, the vets, the trainers... The puppy raisers do this because they want to help people. The volunteers who take the dogs home on weekends to socialize them do this because they want to help people. One of the ladies is a PhD in psychology. Her name is Brenda. She councils the inmates while they are training dogs and helps during boot camp to council the recipients. She does this because she loves to help give all of those involved with this program an opportunity to live again. I mean, even the prisoners have a reason to live for again. Leslie joins forces with Brenda in the training aspect. She sees to it that the dogs are ready for the task they were trained for and the recipient for their independence. These people are good people. They have created a program that has such a wonderful redemptive and positive ripple effect for so many lives.
I know that our lives were completely changed for the better. My daughter is a quiet girl. She is shy. So many of the recipients are. They live with daily fears. Some of the pain they experience is silent. Everyday is a gift and they know it. They want to be free but sometimes they are held back from things that are out of their control. Near the end of our boot camp, as we all became more acquainted with one another, Brenda and Leslie asked us how this program has effected our lives. You have to understand, 8 - 10 hours we spent in training for 10 full days caused us all to bond with one another. The boot camp is so long because they know how important it is that we bonded with our service dog and felt confident to go home with all the knowledge we need to make this a success. You could not hold back the tears if you tried. Each recipient had their own story of how their furry friend has impacted their life. Some that were shy and scared to be in places were now going out with the dogs. They were able to talk in front of people and share their feeling like they never have before. Molly, with tears, shared how Teddy changed her life. She told us that she is so thankful because she can finally have independence and a feeling of safety. She told us that she was afraid to go to sleep at night but that she is not afraid anymore. WOW!
All 6 recipients walked across and received their certificate and they all walked out of there changed. They have hope. They have freedom. They can do things that they were not able to do before.
I want to promote this wonderful company, RETRIEVING INDEPENDENCE. If you or one of your loved ones could benefit from this program by getting a service dog, please know that this company is one that I stand behind 100%!!! I never promote anything that I can't stand behind with all my heart. These dogs are trained for the blind, hard of hearing, seizure, diabetes, PTSD, for people with limited mobility, and much more. Learn more about service animals and this amazing program by clicking on the image below. Thank you Retrieving Independence for all you do!!!!