Fostering Kindness

One family making a big difference to foster dogs and children

A little kindness goes a long way—that’s a motto Freedom Service Dogs volunteer Leslie Berry and her family live by.

Introduced to FSD by a neighbor, the Berry’s immediately felt drawn to the organization’s mission and knew they wanted to be involved. Every weekend since their orientation and onboarding training in spring 2023, they have opened their hearts and home to foster adult dogs in training to become service dogs, showering them with love, care, and snuggles during their well-deserved breaks from the kennels. But the Berry’s generosity doesn’t stop there; in addition to weekend fostering for FSD, they have dedicated the last two years to fostering over nineteen children in need of temporary care.

Having had multiple family members bravely serve in the U.S. military and missing the joy of having a dog in their home, the Berry’s felt that becoming fosters for FSD was a wonderful way to spend time with a dog while helping make a difference in the lives of veterans and others living with disabilities. Additionally, they felt that their foster children would experience a deeper sense of comfort and connection with a dog in the home. What they didn’t know was how much of an impact having FSD foster dogs would make in their lives and the lives of their foster children.

As Leslie shares, many of the children in the foster care system that stay with her family are only in their home for short durations, while others are with them for weeks or months until they can return to their families. This transition can be tough as they leave behind their family, friends, and often their own pets. While some of them struggle to connect with the Berry’s and face an array of emotions, many have found comfort, security, and love in the FSD foster dogs. “Many of these kids have been through a lot, but the dogs have a way of knowing exactly who they need to be around each kid. We had a foster child who wouldn’t talk to us for days, but when he saw Merengue (an FSD Service Dog who has since graduated), he immediately went and laid in the bed with him and petted him. Merengue was already practicing his job without even knowing it. The joy these dogs bring to the kids and my family is unreal,” says Leslie.

Since becoming weekend fosters in spring 2023, Leslie and her family have hosted six service dog trainees and have seen the mutual benefits the dogs receive from spending time with their family and their foster children. Says Leslie, “The dogs get to interact with babies and kids with different personalities, energy levels, and capabilities, and the kids get to spend time with these great dogs with their own unique personalities. It’s fun to see how they interact and what qualities affect the kind of people they’ll be matched with.”

For the Berry family and the children they foster, volunteering for FSD has morphed into something life-changing. Not only is it a fun way for them to give back to their community and spend time with dogs, but it’s also a way for them to connect with their foster children in ways they otherwise may not be able to. Shares Leslie, “We foster because we see the good that these dogs are doing in the future and in the now. We love every single moment with these dogs, and we enjoy seeing the change in them from their first few weeks of training to becoming serious working dogs. You know they’re going to do incredible things, and we’re happy to be a part of their journey.”


To learn more about how you can become a volunteer foster for FSD, contact our Volunteer Program Coordinator, Hannah Bennett, at [email protected] or call 303-922-6231 x228.

Contact Erin Conley at econley@freedomservicedogs.org for all media inquiries.