Dogs set the anchor of unconditional love in our lives. Even without words, on our worst days, they limit the drift of positivity, confidence, and hope.
From improving cardiovascular health to lowering blood pressure and reducing anxiety, the benefits of owning a dog go much further than the simplicity of furry companionship.
That’s why Denver Broncos receiver Eric Decker and his wife, Jessie James, have launched Deckers Dogs, which provides support to Freedom Service Dogs’ Operation Freedom. The goal is to provide needed service dogs to returning military personnel and veterans with a service-connected disability.
The dogs are custom trained for individual clients including veterans and active duty soldiers who have traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or spinal cord injuries among other things. The service members and veterans are matched with dogs that help them find a new level of independence in their post-combat life, whether it’s turning on a light switch or simply reducing anxiety levels.
The Decker’s heartstrings were tugged last year at the Operation Freedom facility.
“My dad is actually a Colonel in the Air Force,” Jessie said. “I grew up a military brat, was born on a military base so I’ve been involved with military my whole life, gone overseas to sing for the troops, and really invested a lot of heart and soul into our military. On top of that, we’re huge animal lovers. We love dogs. It’s just amazing how it combined. This really helped combine the things that we care about into one and so it was really special for us.”
Jessie said that she and Eric cried throughout the videos that were played for them during their visit with Operation Freedom.
“There was one man who was about to commit suicide and the dog stopped him,” Jessie said. “Emotionally he knew what this man was going through and he stopped this man from ending his life. These dogs are so powerful in a way that they can sense their owners’ emotions and what they’re feeling and going through when they’re scared.”
“There’s multiple stories that are like that,” Eric added. “Another story is this woman wouldn’t leave her house for fours years because of anxiety. This dog came in and really just opened her eyes. She was able to get out to the grocery store by herself. She actually called Operation Freedom from the store to thank them…We’ve really been moved by how much the dogs have impacted these lives.”
The Deckers have three dogs at home – two Golden Retrievers and a five-pound Yorkshire Terrier. They know that a dog can be man’s best friend. With that, they’ve learned that a dog can be a a solider’s source of will and hope in the most dire time as well.
If you’d like to support Deckers Dogs, join the fan club and with a $25 donation, you’ll become a member and receive an official Deckers Dogs t-shirt and a letter from Eric and Jessie. You’ll also be kept up to date with the latest on the dogs graduation from the program.