Service dog training facility breaks ground

WAVERLY, Iowa – Retrieving Freedom places canines with veterans and children with autism, and now it’s expanding, thanks to a lot of support from local donors.

Retrieving Freedom is going to be able to build a new $475,000 training facility in Waverly.

Saturday, they held a ground breaking ceremony. Among those in attendance was a Mason City native and veteran who was introduced to a service dog that might just be her lifelong companion.

“So far he’s great. I’m really liking him. I’ve only just met him today, but he’s great,” says Kelli Hackbart, an Army vet who will be receiving a service dog trained by Retrieving Freedom.

“It calms me and it tells me when I’m out in public where people are so I don’t have anxiety attacks, and I’m hopeful will reduce my hyper vigilance,” explains Hackbart.

She says she also has trouble sleeping at night, but these service dogs are trained to turn lights on when their humans are having a nightmare.

“Eventually they just kind of get to know you and know when you’re having issues and they kind of take over.”

That’s just one of the many things these dogs can do.

The facility where the dogs are trained is about to get an upgrade. Saturday marks the groundbreaking of a brand new training facility. It’s going to be a one-stop-shop for working with dogs and placing them with veterans and children with autism.

The new facility will make it possible for them to stay overnight with the dogs, while in the training process.

“They can actually bring the dogs into their rooms, sleep right here on site, get up, start working with the dog. It’s going to have a kitchen and a lounge and the whole “at home” feeling of being able to have hands on with your dog and work with your dog, so that’s a big aspect of it,” explains Co-Founder and Co-President of Retrieving Freedom, Scott Dewey.

Dewey says they’re excited they’ve gotten to this point where they’re able to provide this new facility, but says the work is far from done.

“Every dog that we produce in the future, we still need help, we still need people to step up and say, I can help this veteran get a dog, even though we have a building, we still have to cover the production costs.”

Dewey says they hope to have the new training facility completed by January

A lot of people donated time and money to the future facility, including a family with a local connection.

A year and a half ago, Brandon Piehl lost his father, Russ Piehl when the Mercy Air Med Helicopter crashed in a Ventura field.

Brandon and his family decided to donate to the Retrieving Freedom facility in honor of Russ.

“We ended up getting some memorial money that we we’re trying to think about what to do with it. We heard about Retrieving Freedom and thought it was a great idea. He spent his entire life helping people, and this is a way to kind of honor that,” Brandon Piehl tells us.

Brandon believes his father would be very proud of the Retrieving Freedom facility and what they do to help people.

If you are interested in helping Retrieving Freedom place service dogs with veterans and children with Autism follow the link below:

http://retrievingfreedom.org/how-to-help/

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