4 Paws 2 Freedom Creates Special PartnershipsAug 31, 2022 12:00AM ● By By Thomas J. Sullivan
Cambria, a Spanish Burgos pointer, is Steve Barnett's personal service dog. Photo courtesy of 4 Paws 2 Freedom
RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) - A nonprofit, 4 Paws 2 Freedom, is helping veterans and first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, one friendly tail wag at a time.
“Four Paws 2 Freedom started in 2011 from the experience of an initial small group of military veterans with PTSD who gained personal freedom through the company of a trained service dog,” said board chairman Steve Barnett, a former combat Army infantryman who served a tour of duty in Iraq.
“Our organization, and those whom we’ve been able to serve, have been growing steadily ever since,” Barnett said. His own service dog is Cambria, a Spanish Burgos pointer.
Barnett attended 4 Paws 2 Freedom training classes training his service dog, and soon became an apprentice trainer. He now works full-time for the Rancho Cordova-based nonprofit.
He recognized his own feelings of PTSD associated with his memories of his tour of duty in Iraq from 2006-07 when he returned to the states.
“Service dogs can help in many ways. They can be trained to provide a buffer zone between their human and others, help recognize repetitive motions and then respond, and be especially alert to the approach of someone from behind,” he said.
“A trained service dog can offer that level of support to guide their human to a safe place, interrupt nightmares and many other important tasks,” Barnett said.
4 Paws 2 Freedom, founded in 2011 is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation and has been able to help between 350-450 veterans and first responders and their service dogs who have graduated through their training program, Barnett said. The training program takes nine months to complete.
Military veterans or a qualified first responder, defined as a person who has a trauma resulting in PTSD as a result of a public service action, may receive service dog training at no charge, Barrett said.
Acting as both board chairman and lead trainer, he described the process for those who already have a dog, and those who without, in what they should look for in a suitable canine service companion.
“All varieties can be suitable, but most dogs begin with a weight of 20 pounds and go up to 90 pounds. Generally, there are no breed restrictions,” Barnett said.
“I look for a canine candidate that the owner can have full confidence in, with the kind of outgoing personality and temperament his owner can truly trust in.”
4 Paws 2 Freedom has an applicant waiting list. Barnett recommended that interested applicants contact him through the group’s website for more information or to apply.
Training classes are offered at Pet Food Express in Roseville, El Dorado Hills, at Sierra College and at 4 Paws 2 Freedom’s home office at 2376 Zinfandel Drive in Saint Clement’s Episcopal Church in Rancho Cordova.
All applicants must be physically and emotionally able to train their own service dog; be disabled by the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and live within 100 miles of program headquarters in Rancho Cordova, Barnett said.
Trained service dogs and their owners must re-certify every year to maintain their “certified service dog” status with 4 Paws 2 Freedom. Service dogs must have a dog licensed in the city or county where they reside.
“Most importantly, they must be able to meet the physical and financial needs of an assistance dog,” Barnett said.
“For me, once I returned home from Iraq, I didn’t fully trust that I was safe,” Barnett said. “With my dog, I have a great partner in whom I can fully trust.”
4 Paws 2 Freedom welcomes the donation of dog treats used for training, treat pouches and leashes, Barnett said. “We appreciate the public support of our service dog training programs in every way.”
For more information or to apply, visit: 4paws2freedom.org or call (916) 966-6758.