When Carlos first started attending training sessions at Freedom Dogs, he felt he didn’t fit in. Big reason: Carlos was afraid of dogs. He didn’t like them, and he believed they didn’t like him. In the tough, gang-infested Chicago streets where Carlos grew up, dogs were treated more as weapons than pets.
A big part of Freedom Dogs is getting a shell-shocked troop to trust him or herself enough to care for the dog they’ve been assigned to train.
But for Carlos, every dog Freedom Dog matched him with during these training sessions was a bust. Carlos was beginning to wonder if Freedom Dogs just wasn’t for him.
And then along came Logan.
Logan had been having trouble acclimating, too. The puppies used by Freedom Dogs are virtually always Black Labrador Retrievers donated by professional breeders. Logan was the only Yellow Lab.
Logan didn’t seem to click with any of the would-be trainers he’d been assigned to. It looked like Logan might be a wash in the program, too.
And then, like in some corny Disney movie, Carlos and Logan met for the first time.
Logan, who hadn’t displayed any signs of affection with any of the other trainers, took an immediate liking to Carlos. And Carlos, his fear of dogs ingrained in him since childhood, felt a sense of calm wash over him when he found himself in Logan’s presence.
Freedom Dogs is a two and a half year program, where once the service member is matched up with the dog he is meant to train, the twosome tests out their bond by going public.
First, it’s somewhere easy, like going to one of the many doctors appointments wounded troops attend each week. Freedom Dogs has found that troops in the program are much more likely not to cancel their doctors appointments if they have a dog at their side.
Then the twosome ventures out to a place more intimidating, like a mall or busy restaurant. By the end of the program, most participants feel comfortable enough with their progress that they don’t want to be permanently matched with a service dog.
Tomorrow, "Even the Devil Can't Fool a Dog" - Part 9
(Read the previous installment of “Even the Devil Can’t Fool a Dog” by clicking here.)