At Freedom Service Dogs, we unleash the potential of dogs by transforming them into custom-trained, life-changing assistance dogs for people in need. Our clients include children, veterans and active duty military, and other adults.
Founded in 1987, Freedom Service Dogs, Inc. grew from the understanding that assistance dogs increase the independence of a person living with a disability. The founders, PJ and Michael Roche, came to this conclusion through personal experience. While working as a paramedic, Mike was severely injured, resulting in paraplegia. As a canine obedience trainer, PJ saw how a specially trained dog would enable Mike to regain his independence and enhance his mobility in the home and out in the community. Motivated by this realization, PJ started training their border collie, Oreo. Oreo proved to be a willing and able partner who drastically improved Mike's independence and quality of life. Inspired, the Roches founded Freedom Service Dogs (FSD) to increase the independence of other people facing life with a disability.
Since that time, FSD has paired hundreds of client-dog teams-including veterans with PTSD, children with autism, and other adults with disabilities-at no cost to the client. FSD provides a lifetime of support for its client-dog teams, including post-placement follow-up, ongoing training, annual recertification, and advocacy efforts.
Recent veteran graduate, Eddie, a U.S. Army veteran with post-traumatic stress (PTS) who served four tours in Afghanistan during his 21-year military career. Says Eddie, "I returned home with physical scars, which I can deal with, but the most painful scars are the ones that you don't see. Those painful scars are what have not let me live my life to the fullest. Those injuries are the ones that made me alienate myself from everyone, including the ones that I love, and that haunt me every night in my dreams." Last fall, Eddie was matched with FSD service dog Alfredo. "From the moment I saw him, well, he has no idea, but he saved my life," says Eddie. Since graduating in December 2019, Alfredo has given Eddie a new sense of comfort, confidence, and independence. "Alfredo has forced me to get out of bed and be more active. I'm not as anxious about leaving the house now, so I have spent more time with my family outside of my house, including going to a movie theater together for the first time in almost eight years. Alfredo provides space between crowds and me, which is very helpful because it provides me peace of mind and gives me the buffer that I need from people. Alfredo is the battle buddy that I have been missing."
-Eddie, U.S. Army veteran who graduated with Alfredo in December 2019
"Since bringing Gander into my life, my resting heart rate has been reduced by more than 20 beats per minute, I've been able to stop taking a highly addictive anti-anxiety medication, and my friends and my wife say that the positive changes in me are huge. It is like having had an emotional flu: not knowing just how bad you were feeling until you get well. None of us can remember what life was life before Gander, who brings great joy and comfort to not just me, but everyone. Daily, I feel a debt of gratitude toward Freedom Service Dogs."
-Lonnie, military veteran who graduated with Gander in December 2019
"He has become my best friend and given me self-confidence. He is also helping my walking. People no longer stare at me because I walk differently. They now look at me and my dog and smile."
-Michael and his service dog, Fender