We unleash the potential of dogs by transforming them into custom-trained, life-changing assistance dogs for people in need.



A career change for Zipper

Service dog hopeful opts for future as family dog

Zipper—the chocolate Labrador who became a TV star when his puppyhood and service dog training were chronicled on FOX31 Denver—was released from FSD’s training program in April. If you were one of the many fans who followed Zipper’s progress on television, you’ll be happy to know that he was honorably discharged from his training duties and has been adopted by the family who fostered him since he was 12 weeks old.

Zipper began his stint as a celebrity pup at the age of 13 weeks, when he first appeared on “Problem Solvers: Serving Those Who Serve,” a series spotlighting organizations that support veterans, active members of the military, and their families. Over the next nine months, Zipper regularly joined FSD staff members and trainers in the FOX31 studio to raise awareness of the lengthy and rigorous process FSD canine candidates go through to determine whether they will make a successful service dog.

According to FSD Dog Training Manager Morgan Karol, “Although we had high hopes for Zipper as a puppy and our trainers worked diligently with him, every dog has their own personality; it’s what makes them so amazing! Not every personality is fit for the rigors of a working life, and at FSD we want our dogs to ‘wag while they work’—to be happy, eager, and comfortable doing their job. Zipper’s heart was simply not in becoming a service dog.”

Says Stacy Baum, community initiatives director for FOX31, “Watching Zipper grow from a floppy puppy to an adorable teenager with a mind of his own has been a blessing for all of us at FOX31 and for our viewers. We are proud to have partnered with Freedom Service Dogs, and we look forward to continuing our relationship and watching other service dogs learn to serve our veterans with love, companionship, and great skill.”

While Zipper’s journey took place in the limelight of local television, dozens of other service dog hopefuls follow the same path each year at our training facility—and like Zipper, many of them make different career choices along the way. “A lot of dogs experience training challenges, especially adolescent dogs, and it’s our job to give them a fair shot at being successful,” says Karol. “Having said that, FSD has stringent standards for our service dogs, including meeting the requirements mandated by Assistance Dogs International (ADI), the organization through which FSD is accredited. In fact, we often exceed ADI training requirements to help ensure that our dogs can meet the vital needs of our clients.”

Just as in Zipper’s case, Freedom Service Dogs is committed to doing what’s best for each of our dogs—and each of our clients. Our goal is to graduate dogs with both the skill set and the eagerness to work for the children, veterans, and adults with disabilities we serve. To that end, we look at the unique personality, talents, and needs of every dog that comes to us and strive to help them find the job that suits them best. For some, that means becoming a service dog or professional therapy dog. For others, it means becoming a beloved family pet.

For career-change dogs like Zipper, FSD’s adoption program allows them to stay in our care as we help them find a loving home. Zipper now lives with Nadine and Andrew, the couple who fostered Zipper from the start. Says Nadine, “It’s been quite the journey with Zipper, and although his release from the program was not the outcome we had planned for, we are thrilled to have him as a permanent part of our family. Even though he didn’t always wag when he was working toward becoming a service dog, since being home he’s almost always wagging now.”

Interested in adopting a career-change dog? Browse our adoptable dogs.


About FOX31 Denvers’ Serving Those Who Serve Project

FOX31 Denver is honored to partner with Freedom Service Dogs as part of our ongoing commitment to Serving Those Who Serve. The FOX31 Serving Those Who Serve project builds on the stories FOX31 has been telling for years by shining a spotlight on our military and their families. Through the comprehensive initiative, veterans, active service members, their families, and volunteers who serve our military will share their stories with the community, as well as connect with resources and organizations that serve our military men and women. Being able to connect our Colorado veterans to an organization like Freedom Service Dogs is an exciting opportunity for us and we look forward to an ongoing with them and our furry friends.

About ZIPA, Zipper’s namesake ale from Breckenridge Brewery

Breckenridge Brewery launched its ZIPA program in May last year with a year-long commitment to donate $1 for every pour of a special beer created in honor of Zipper. The brewpub in Breckenridge made a delicious IPA for the program, aptly name ZIPA (as in Zipper IPA). The popularity of the program has kept the brewery busy brewing new batches every few months. Through April, the brewery has sold 21,000 ZIPA pours, so the brewery has donated $21,000 to Freedom Service Dogs. The program ends Friday, May 18th, so there’s still time to drop by the brewery in Littleton or Breckenridge to grab a ZIPA and support FSD!

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