Willow Creek Dental is proud to support Freedom Service Dogs of America this month and below is a guest blog. For more information about FSD, visit their website at www.freedomservicedogs.org.
With the last name Collie, it’s almost a given you have to have a dog. So it should have come as no surprise when my husband approached me and said, “it’s time for us to get a dog, let’s go find one.”
Since we had never had a dog together, I thought dog fostering may be good way to ease us into this. I did wonder if I would fall in love with every dog who came in our home, but it was my husband, Brian, who fell in love with every dog we fostered. Our fostering adventure started simple enough. I was watching 9News one morning and saw a story about Freedom Service Dogs of America (FSD). Their mission is amazing and I knew this was the organization for us. FSD truly gives dogs and their “people” a new lease on life. FSD rescues shelter dogs (breaking them out of jail) and then trains them for returning service members with PTSD, a physical disability or other individuals with service dog needs. Dogs are trained to open doors, pick up items, pull wheelchairs, go for help, turn on lights and more than 50 other commands. The stories of how these dogs become life changers is just incredible.
FSD service dogs in training are in “school” Monday-Friday. Every day they are in training, learning basic commands and the various specialty tasks they will need to complete for their person. One the weekend they go home with foster families. It’s time to kick back and chill. Since these are all shelter dogs, it’s important for the dogs to be socialized in a home setting since a home will be their eventual environment. Some families foster the same dog every weekend until the dog graduates and is placed with their person. Other foster families are substitutes; if the regular family is out of town or just needs a break. We were in the substitute category, which was perfect for us; we could have a different dog every weekend. We never really knew who we were getting until pick up day. During our fostering adventure we had Durango, Yardley who became Yards, Pivot who become Divot and Baraboo who become Bear. Whenever my husband decided he wanted to keep a dog he changed their name. He was like a little kid, “Mom, PLEASE, I want to keep him!!” Every Sunday evening that was that the conversation in our house even though we knew each dog was being trained for a greater purpose.
Though, not every dog makes the cut. Some fail because they don’t have the temperament to be a service dog, may be a little timid or any number of reasons. Others are calm and trainable but they just can’t break a nasty habit of chasing squirrels. This is where Umi comes into the picture. Umi was Ollie’s FSD name. We don’t know much about Ollie’s background other than FSD rescued him from a shelter in Albuquerque, New Mexico and brought him to Denver for evaluation and training. He had been with FSD for three months and doing great, passing every test in front of him except for those darn Wash Park squirrels. When you’re a service dog, you can’t really be darting after a squirrel if your person has stability issues. Not good. We had Umi for about two weekends and falling in puppy love when we were told that Umi had failed his final test. What happens to the drop-outs? They get to find a forever family.
I brought Umi home that weekend and Brian tried to convince me all weekend to keep him. He used every reason one could come up with, but I just wasn’t biting. I don’t have a good reason. Umi was great, loved to snuggle, knew his manners and loved to play. I just wasn’t ready. So Monday morning, I dropped off Umi thinking about keeping him and even told FSD we were thinking about keeping, I just needed the week to think it over. FSD has web page of just their adoptable dogs and given their temperate and training, they are highly sought after so if you have interest you have to act fast and my husband did just that.
After dropping off Umi, I headed to the airport for a business trip. During the course of that four-day business trip, my husband adopted Umi (pushed me right over the cliff), renamed him Ollie and got him settled. He made the decision for our family and I don’t regret the decision one bit. I have to thank Momma Collie for coming up with the name Ollie. If she hadn’t said he looked like an Ollie Collie, Umi may have been Oozie. I would have liked to have been a part of the name change conversation, but I probably couldn’t have come up with a better name anyway, well may be one better than Oozie, so Ollie has stuck.
So many people stop us to ask where we got Ollie. No can believe we have such a calm, well behaved dog when he’s at a brewery or restaurant. I love telling the story. From the mission of FSD, to the volunteer opportunities they provide and those pesky squirrels, they all combined to bring us our Ollie. He’s only been with us for four months, but I can’t imagine our home without him. He’s the first to greet me when I get home from work in the evening and the first to remind me it’s 5AM (walk time). He knows the word “bark park” (goes nuts when we say it out loud), loves his car rides and morning snuggles and of course loves his bacon! Its amazing we live in such a dog friendly environment so we take him just about everywhere and every weekend includes a new bacon adventure.
Knowing his story, I feel Ollie has gotten three chances at a great life and sometimes I think he knows it too. I feel in my heart Ollie picked us, we were meant to be his family. Both Durango and Pivot were adoptable, but they didn’t have the same pull as Umi/Ollie. No, he picked us and now he’s our Ollie Collie and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Once we get Ollie settled we will start fostering again. FSD has become an important organization to both Brian and I. We believe in the mission, the work they do and forever grateful for bringing us Ollie. We can’t wait to see where this next adventure takes us and see how many dogs have a name change when they come in our home. I’ll never say never, but I hope I never go on another business trip and have my husband adopt a dog while I’m gone.