Fourth Panel: Animals in Service of Families
Jeff Wilson and Gwen Templeton, Operation Freedom Paws
Jeff Wilson and Gwen Templeton are a married couple with two working service dogs trained in the Operation Freedom Paws [OFP] program. Sgt.Wilson served 16 years in the U.S. Army until he was injured in Iraq in 2004. Mr. Wilson's injuries left him physically disabled and suffering from PTSD. Those injuries greatly limited his ability to go into public spaces and placed severe stress on his marriage and family. Jeff joined Operation Freedom Paws in 2010 as a client to train with his service dog. Mr. Wilson's service dog, Selah, is trained to perform tasks in mobility, hearing impairment, and PTSD. The service dog training he received at OFP changed his life, allowing him to return to a more independent life. Mr. Wilson returned to college to complete his degree in Fine Arts going onto become an accomplished artist with work featured in museums and galleries across the nation. Mr. Wilson credits OFP with saving his life and his family and in 2012 he joined OFP as a mentor trainer to help other veterans and their families receive the life changing training he experienced. Jeff continues to work as a mentor trainer for OFP.
Jeff's wife Gwen Templeton, was a college professor for years before joining the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to work in national higher education reform. In 2013, Ms. Templeton's own medical condition changed leaving her unable to work and in need of a service dog. Gwen's service dog is trained to perform tasks in mobility and medical alerts.
While it is rare to see two service dogs working within a single family, their experiences highlight how much service dogs can restore independence where illness and injury has taken it away. Living with serious medical conditions often diminishes a person's ability live independently, Gwen and Jeff's service dogs mitigate those things which otherwise would keep them housebound or institutionalized.
Moderator: Gary Michael