Ceremony means dogs ready to serve

Posted 12/13/10

It was standing room only at Englewood’s Hampden Hall when friends and families gathered Dec. 12 for the graduation of a dozen Freedom Service Dogs …

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Ceremony means dogs ready to serve


It was standing room only at Englewood’s Hampden Hall when friends and families gathered Dec. 12 for the graduation of a dozen Freedom Service Dogs clients and their dogs.

The nonprofit organization rescues dogs from shelters and provides customized individual training so each dog can assist its owner with tasks such as opening doors and turning on lights. Dogs are also trained to become companions for people with emotional disabilities.

There were diplomas and gifts as the owners smiles and their charges wagged their tails at the attention they received during the event.

Graduates included one soldier still on active duty as well as Englewood resident Andy Beals, who suffers from Down syndrome.

“We have been on the list for a dog for about two years,” the boy’s mother Darlene said. “He loves animals and, although we’ve only had Pilot a short time, I feel he is a bridge between my son and I. Also, people who didn’t know Alan had Downs Syndrome see the dog, ask questions so they can know more about him.”

The boy said he likes to give Pilot treats and his dinner.

“I like him and I know I am in charge when we are together,” the boy said. “But sometimes I think we are in charge with each other.”

Freedom Service Dogs usually chooses only golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers and full-size poodles for training because of there temperament and longevity. But they made an exception for Pilot, a border collie and now there could be other border collies brought into the program.

The Dec. 12 class brings to 27 the number of client-dog teams who completed training this year, the highest number Freedom Service Dogs have graduated in a single year.

Freedom Service Dogs rescues animals from shelters as candidates for the program. About half the dogs are able to complete the training. But Freedom Service Dogs keeps the other half until they find good homes for them.

Freedom Service Dogs has about two dozen dogs at its Englewood facility. Some of the dogs are just beginning the training while others are well past the midway point.

The organization would like to train and place 40 animals in the coming year to meet the needs of the almost 40 people on the waiting list.

One barrier is money since it costs about $25,000 for the six to eight months of training it takes before a dog can be turned over to help a client. But since the dogs are provided free, Freedom Service Dogs relies on donations to cover training costs. For information on the program or to make a donation, go to the Web site at www.freedomservicedogs.org or call the organization at 303-922-6231.

Parker resident Gerard LePre and his new furry companion Turbo also graduated Dec. 12.

“I am in a wheelchair and suffer from multiple sclerosis so I drop things a lot,” LePre said. “Turbo is great and is right there to pick up what I drop. We’ve only had him at home a short time and we are still getting used to each other. But I am sure we will be great friends and he will really help me.”

A short distance away, Elizabeth Rimpley patted the head of her dog Bart.

“Bart is such a great help. I can’t walk at all so Bart can pick up things for me and we got a phone with rubber sides so he can bring it to me if it rings,” the Monument resident said. “He is fitting in well with our family, including the cat. Oh, the cat is adapting and not very friendly yet but it’ll get better as time goes on.”

Tey Graning of Castle Rock also graduated Dec. 12 with his dog Millie.

“Tey suffers from autism and, while Millie has only been with us about a week, her presence seems to help Tey better focus on what he is doing,” his dad Eric said. “Right now, Tey and Millie are getting to know each other better and building a bond. However, that should be easy because Tey loves dogs.”


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