Right now, a four-legged hero is sitting in a kennel at an animal shelter somewhere in America. Truth be told, many four-legged heroes are currently homeless and their potential to help someone, perhaps to save a life, has not yet been discovered.
Eric Decker, wide-receiver for the New York Jets, and his wife, Jessie James Decker, a country music singer/song-writer, hope to find these unsung, undiscovered heroes and pair them with military veterans who are struggling with pain and mobility issues, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Deckers Dogs, an initiative of the couple, has a simple, but powerful motto which states, “Free a Hero to Save a Hero.”
Deckers Dogs works hand-in-hand with Freedom Service Dogs, a non-profit organization which seeks out homeless shelter dogs (or dogs from rescue agencies) who show the potential to successfully complete the extensive training necessary to become a full-fledged service dog. Eric Decker told the Huffington Post how he and his wife decided to work with the organization:
When I was in Denver, my wife and I were trying to find a charity that kind of spoke to us and, fortunately enough, we haven’t had any major health issues or anything in our family. Her father is in the military currently, and I’ve had family in the military and we’re big dog lovers. Freedom Service Dogs is the organization we’re actually aligned with now.
Trained service dogs can sometimes mean the difference between life and death to a veteran suffering with PTSD. The life-changing impact of these specially trained dogs can be seen in the Shelter Me: Hope & Redemption episode. Veterans talk candidly about their struggles with depression and anxiety – and comment about the positive impact that their service dogs have had on their life.
Decker told the Huffington Post:
Once the dogs get in their hands, seeing them become more confident and to see them feel in a way where they are a father, they’re a husband or just a better citizen in their community and they do productive things.
Freedom Service Dogs does not work solely with veterans – they also offer specially trained dogs to individuals with spinal cord injuries, autism, muscular dystrophy and more. The cost of training these dogs is high – though all dogs are secured through rescue agencies and shelters, the journey to becoming a fully-trained service dog costs thousands of dollars.
(Photo Wikipedia Free Commons/Deckers Dogs)