'Retrieving Freedom' partnering service dogs with veterans - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

'Retrieving Freedom' partnering service dogs with veterans

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WAVERLY (KWWL) -

More than 60,000 veterans have been disabled in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone. That's according to the Waverly-based nonprofit organization Retrieving Freedom, Inc.

Thousands of veterans are on a waiting list for service dogs, but currently only 200 of those disabled veterans are getting help.

Brent Wightman, U.S. Army veteran, said his dogs are more than just man's best friend. Lilly, one of his dogs, saved his life.

At that time, Wightman said he was at one of his lowest points and wanted to end his life by setting his barn on fire and sitting in it.

"She just got between me and the door and would not let me out. I would go out the door and she would push against me. I couldn't move her," Wightman said. "It just gave me the time to think about that's kind of a stupid idea."

Wightman's experience is just one instance why Scott Dewey, Retrieving Freedom President, said he feels the need to help our veterans.

"Some of these guys are waiting four, five, six years before they get a service dog, and that's not acceptable. They just need them a lot quicker than that,'' Dewey said. 

Dewey is a professional dog trainer now turning his talents to helping veterans.

"In the Midwest, with nobody really doing it. We needed to step up and fill that need," he said.

Training these dogs takes about two years, but after that Dewey said they should know nearly 120 commands.

"They will know how to open doors, turn off lights, shut fridge doors, get laundry," Dewey said.

And those are just some of the physical tasks.

"With flashback and nightmares, you come out of that in your highest sense of alert and you are not grounded in that reality and that dog can bring you back to that reality," Wightman said.

It's a reality Dewey and the Retrieving Freedom team said they hope to make for many more veterans.

The cost of one service dog is estimated at about $20,000. Retrieving Freedom's goal is to place 10 to 15 dogs per year.

They hope to build a facility where the people receiving the dogs can train on sight before they go home.

If you would like to help, there will be an auction and benefit supper July 7 in Waverly. 

Retrieving Freedom is also working to train dogs for autistic children.

For more information: http://www.retrievingfreedom.org/

 

 

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