Students in the Leadership Theories and Practices are required to be involved in one of two different service opportunities during the semester.
Retrieving Freedom Inc., or RFI, offers one of these opportunities, allowing students to get involved in the training of service dogs for disabled veterans, children with autism and people living with diabetes.
Tyler Johnsrud is one of the students involved with RFI and works with not one, but two dogs. He said the work RFI does is very necessary.
“It’s ridiculously important, without Retrieving Freedom there wouldn’t be service dogs in the area,” Johnsrud said. “Whatever the cost of the dog is, they don’t take a dime of it. What they do is directly put it towards another dog, they also work with the veteran or the child’s family that is receiving the dog and try and fundraise for them.”
Some of the things he is teaching his dog Murphy include being able to press the button to open and handicap accessible door and turning a light switch on and off.
Outside of training the dogs, he also does work at the facility keeping their kennels clean and making sure his dogs have plenty of food and water.
Another student, Ty Putchio, said his experience with the service dogs has been great. He was originally excited just to be working with dogs, but after more research about RFI he realized how special the opportunity would be.
“You want to put more hours in because you just want to get these dogs to the point where they get the chance to work with people and truly help people,” Putchio said.
During the training process, handlers have to pass a public access test. After passing the test, the handlers are then allowed to take the dogs to different places around town, including back to the Wartburg campus.
The process is not always easy, however, for Johnsrud, working with two dogs can sometimes be a challenge because of their different personalities and he has to change his approach to how he handles them.
Both Johnsrud and Putchio said their work with RFI becomes more special because they know veterans and people with diabetes or autism.
“Getting to see the what the effects of that are and what these dogs do to help people, really motivates me to work harder,” Putchio said.
Johnsrud also said he loves having the dogs on campus because of their impact on students.
“The dogs on campus just seem to brighten everyone’s day,” Johnsrud said.
For more information about Retrieving Freedom Inc. go to their website https://www.retrievingfreedom.org.