Cuddle puppies and be rewarded with their kisses on Saturday, Oct. 26, when Enchanted Acres pumpkin patch hosts service dogs in training from noon until 2 PM. Visitors will have the opportunity to meet families that foster service dogs for Retrieving Freedom Incorporated (RFI), interact with puppies and help with their training. A 30-minute service dog demonstration will be held at 1 PM.
SSG Andrew O’Connor (RET) of Sheffield, Iowa, is on a mission to raise $7,500 toward the cost of training a service dog. What could be a better way to help this soldier celebrate Veterans Day than by helping him reach his fund-raising goal? Veterans Day is a federal holiday that is celebrated each year on November 11 to honor military veterans, or people who have served in the United States Armed Forces and were discharged honorably.
“Calling Retrieving Freedom is one of the best decisions I’ve made to date,” says O’Connor, 36, of Sheffield. He served 13½ years in the United States Army where he was an 11B Infantryman. He served six tours overseas: four tours in Iraq, one tour in Afghanistan, and one tour in Jordan.
During a routine patrol on August 6, 2007, O’Connor’s squad entered a section of abandoned houses and began clearing them.
Thank you SSG Andrew O’Connor (RET) of Sheffield for your service. Read this article to see how you can help this fellow North Iowan, who has served six tours of duty overseas.
“I and another team member started to enter the back of one house when it exploded,” recalls O’Connor. “I was thrown 50 feet from where I was standing and was knocked unconscious. The rest of my squad was killed. I live with that guilt every day. I struggle with extreme anxiety and depression, so I’m looking forward to regaining some of my personal daily freedom back with Tilly.”
O’Connor has been training with Tilly for the past year at RFI’s training facility in Wavery, Iowa. The pair has worked both in the training facility and in public alongside professional trainers. Tilly is trained specific tasks to meet the needs of O’Connor, such as providing him some relief in anxious situations. The team is set to graduate in the early months of 2020.
SSG Andrew O’Connor (RET) of Sheffield, Iowa, and his service dog, Tilly, are in training with Retrieving Freedom Inc. (RFI). Your $5 admission to Enchanted Acres on Oct. 26 will help Andrew reach his $7,500 fundraising goal!
A non-profit organization, RFI trains service dogs for children with autism and veterans with disabilities. It costs from $25,000 to $30,000 to train one service dog.
“We get four requests for every dog that has been trained through our program,” says RFI founder Scott Dewey. “Trained service dogs allow veterans and children to regain their independence from simply sustaining in life to thriving still costs.”
While service dogs are provided at no cost to qualifying recipients, O’Connor wants to give back to the organization that is giving him so much. North Iowa residents can help with as little as $5, which is the cost of their gate admission to Enchanted Acres.
Join the fun! Feel free to dress in your favorite Halloween costume. Many volunteers for Retrieving Freedom Inc. will dress in costume, and some of the puppies will be dressed for the occasion. Sales from Pumpkin Dog Treats will benefit RFI.