Written by Amy Scalia
Comfort comes in many forms. For Eddie, it came in the furry form of his service dog, Alfredo.
Eddie, a US Army veteran, retired after 21 years of service, including four tours in Afghanistan. Like many vets, he now suffers from post-traumatic stress (PTS). “I returned home with physical scars, which I can deal with, but the most painful scars are the ones that you don’t see. The ones that are not visible. The ones that I have tried to hide from everybody,” he explains. “The Army left me torn and broken, with visible and invisible disabilities, but it also made me the man I am today. It has given me the greatest things in my life: my wife and three kids, my pet dog, and now my battle buddy, Alfredo.”
The invisible scars were holding Eddie back from being able to connect with his loved ones and live his life to the fullest. That’s when he heard about Freedom Service Dogs of America (FSD), a non-profit organization that transforms four-legged friends into custom-trained, life-changing assistance dogs for people in need.
“Back in November 2017, during a treatment, I was told about an organization that places service dogs with people with disabilities - psychological and physical - FSD of America,” Eddie recalls. “My dad told me [what] he saw about FSD and I thought that maybe there was a chance for me to survive this disease.”
By the Fall of 2018, Eddie was matched with Alfredo, a fun-loving, loyal Labrador retriever trained by FSD. Eddie was soon on a plane - his first flight in seven years other than deployments - to meet him. “I was nervous, anxious, yet excited. From the moment I saw him, well, he has no idea, but he saved my life,” Eddie tearfully remembers. “He ran towards me like he knew me. I felt that immediate bond and I thank him for choosing me.”
During a two week placement class at FSD in Colorado, Eddie and Alfredo learned the training basics together and practiced specialized cues to help alleviate Eddie’s symptoms of PTS. They even made a successful shopping trip during the holiday season, which was a major milestone for Eddie, who had not been to a store in more than seven years due to crowd-induced anxiety.
Today, Eddie says he’s starting a bright new chapter with Alfredo by his side. “FSD, thank you for giving me a second chance at life,” he says. “I hope to receive many years of comfort, love, and health from my battle buddy Alfredo.”
Since its founding in 1987, FSD has helped hundreds of “teams” a person and their service dog like Eddie and Alfredo, at no cost to the client. Each year, FSD trains with as many as 150 dogs. These dogs are trained to help people enjoy more independent lives by assisting with daily tasks, enhancing social interactions, and making what was once impossible possible. FSD also provides a lifetime of support for every team, including post-placement follow-up, ongoing training, annual recertification, and advocacy efforts.
“Our dogs provide a comfort and calmness that only a service dog can. The only side effect is a little more dog hair,” laughs Nadine Pace, events and community partnerships manager at FSD. “Our dogs inspire confidence for our clients. Serving as a battle buddy for our veterans, they give confidence to engage with the community again. They help calm children with autism with comfort and companionship. And they can provide support to individuals with mobility disabilities by helping them become more independent.”
Hearing stories like this warms our hearts here at UpWest. We have a deep passion for positively affecting people and the planet through conscious comfort. That’s why we not only source the softest and coziest fabrics made in sustainable ways, but we also developed the UpWest Foundation, which gives back to three uniquely important charities: FSD, along with Random Acts and Mental Health America. Click here to learn more about our give-back vision, the $1M donation goal we’re making progress toward, and the partners we’ve carefully selected to join us on this journey.
Celebrate the Dog Days of Summer with UpWest & Freedom Service Dogs of America. Between July 22-August 5 we’re donating 10% of net proceeds of our Summer Sale section to help FSD unleash the potential of dogs by transforming them into custom-trained, life-changing assistance dogs for people in need.