I love the 4th of July. I love the BBQ’s, beach, summertime desserts, and – of course – the fireworks. I grew up outside of Washington DC and recall the memories of fighting the traffic, camping out on picnic blankets all day long, and dealing with the oppressive humidity that plagues the east coast in the summer- all leading up to the big fireworks celebration. While I love the extravagant show, as a kid, I don’t think I ever really gave much thought to what the day signified. Independence Day…
The word “independence” can be defined in different ways for many people. For Americans as a whole, Independence Day signifies the departure from being governed under British rule and a chance to build the United States of America; one nation, under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. For my daughter, getting her driver’s license provided her with a sense of independence. From my perspective as a parent, teaching her to do her own laundry, to cook, and to understand money management helps foster a different definition of independence.
We all have personal freedoms protected by the Constitution, but there are some who find themselves “imprisoned”. These people are trapped behind experiences so traumatic that their lives are now controlled by the limitations and stress caused by post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One such group of people where PTSD seems to be pervasive is our military veterans. The service member suffering from this disorder is not the same person who left behind family and friends as they embarked on combat tour. Their struggles, often debilitating, dramatically affect their loved ones. While these American heroes are not literally imprisoned behind bars, many feel they have lost or have limited independence to function effectively throughout their day. They are dealing with depression, drug abuse, nightmares, anxiety, physical and mental health issues, and the deteriorating relationships affected by their behavior.
Loss of independence can be taken more literally for animals behind bars. Beyond their control, thousands of dogs and cats end up in shelters all over our country. They do not understand the meaning of independence and many often do not live to discover what “freedom” could mean to them.
You might be asking, what do either of these topics have to do with Independence Day? And what is the relation between humans trapped in their minds and dogs and cats trapped in shelters? Interestingly, I have seen how merging the two together creates new found independence for both and stories that are priceless.
The positive benefits of animals for improved mental and physical health in humans is well documented. It is no surprise that pairing a dog with someone suffering from PTSD can bring about remarkable improvement in quality of life. We recently discovered Freedom Service Dogs of America, an organization who recognized the opportunity to save dogs from shelters and train them to be service animals for our servicemembers. I was moved by their mission to bring freedom to two groups I value and care about tremendously – dogs and veterans. Everyone at Dog is Good instantly knew this was an organization we wanted to support.
Changing lives for the better is not an inexpensive or small undertaking. The dedicated team at Freedom Service Dogs, along with their committed group of volunteers, and support received from celebrities such as Dean Caine, and sports phenom Eric Decker, have done amazing work to graduate over 350 client/dog teams and bring freedom to the Veterans who served to protect our country.
As you enjoy your BBQ’s, picnics, vacation, and time with family and friends watching fireworks to celebrate America’s birthday, take a minute to see first hand what happens when “dog meets vet”.
Happy 4th of July!!!!