Volunteer Spotlight: Barry & Linda Christen
They walk dogs. They foster dogs. They stepped in to care for an FSD canine graduate whose client spent a month recovering from major surgery. They transport dogs in our prison training program to our prison partners in Denver and Sterling, Colo.—and back again. They’re Barry and Linda Christen, and they’re two of our most loyal, dependable, and versatile volunteers!
A little over two years ago, Barry, who had recently retired, was looking for a volunteer opportunity that would be meaningful, enjoyable, and fill some newly found time until Linda followed him in retirement. He discovered all those things at FSD, where he started out in dog enrichment and then moved to walking dogs and taking them to the play yards for exercise breaks. Linda joined him as an FSD volunteer after they attended their first graduation ceremony, where Barry says, “We learned the true value that FSD dogs bring to their clients.”
Since that time, Barry has progressed to being a Handler 1 volunteer, which means he can help with puppy outings and assist FSD trainers with on-site training sessions. Additionally, the Christens have fostered several adult FSD dogs, something that Barry says is “enjoyable for us, as it offered a part-time option to fill a void after we lost our last Lab due to illness. It also enables us to see the many varied personalities of FSD dogs and has taught us to be flexible in our expectations for the dogs. It helps to keep in mind that the main reason for fostering is not to simply enjoy the dog’s company, but to help develop them for their life as a service dog.”
In their role as FSD transport volunteers, Barry and Linda take dogs to and from FSD’s partners in Colorado’s Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program, which are located in Denver and Sterling. Says Barry, “Transporting the dogs has helped us to see the broader picture of the service dog training and development process. This is especially true as FSD has implemented a puppy breeding program.”
Barry and Linda agree that the best parts of volunteering at FSD are the people and the dogs. Says Barry, “Hearing the service dog recipients speak of their love and appreciation for their dogs is very rewarding. Likewise, we enjoy the great and helpful attitude of the FSD leaders, staff, and other volunteers.”
“If someone is thinking of volunteering at FSD, we’d tell them to speak with a current volunteer and also visit the facility and talk with staff members,” says Barry. “The opportunities to help are vast.”
FSD is in urgent need of volunteer puppy raisers who live in metro Denver and along the Front Range. This is the only volunteer position currently open to new FSD volunteers. To learn more about becoming a puppy raiser, visit https://freedomservicedogs.org/volunteer/#puppyraising.