Matt Burgess and Brinks
I served in the military for eight years with deployments to Bosnia, Macedonia and Iraq. During those deployments I experienced 4 blast explosions creating Traumatic Brain Injury as well as a reaction to the Anthrax Vaccination resulting in 18 previously nonexistent medical conditions.
I was medically retired from the Military in 2006.Two years later, after losing my house, cars, and good credit rating I received a 100% permanent and total VA Disability Rating as well as Combat Related Special Compensation.
During 2012, while enrolled at UGA, my longtime pet of 15 years passed away. Consequently, I decided to go to the Athens, GA animal shelter to see if I could find another dog to adopt. When I walked into the first kennel, a little fluffy brown and black bundle of fur ran up and started chewing my shoelaces almost like he was verbally pleading with me, PLEASE take me. I applied to rescue that little bundle of joy, which, resulted in being approved despite the waiting list of six individuals in front of me who for reasons we now know didn’t adopt Brinks.
During his first year as an untrained pup Brinks immediately started waking me up at night and saving my life when I would take off my CPAP Mask and stop breathing; often up to thirteen times per minute.
In 2013 my Pet Dog Brinks, who was already doing lifesaving tasks for me elevated himself to an even higher level. While I was working on building a privacy fence, the wind blew a board hitting me in the head and knocking me unconscious. Brinks jumped an existing five foot wire fence, scratched on the neighbors door alerting her, jumped back over the fence, and I woke up to Brinks dropping my cell phone on my chest, and licking my face. In that defining, powerful, transformative, lifesaving moment Brinks let me know what our life's purpose was to be. We were to start a Service Dog Organization which would rescue dogs from shelters, and train them to be lifesaving, healing, medical instrument, service dogs for disabled Veterans at no cost to the Veteran. We were absolutely convinced we could not withhold the indescribable healing and empowerment we had experienced from this more than deserving population.
Subsequently, I found a South Carolina based service dog organization which stated they would train Brinks to be a service dog. During my time at this organization I realized I had a gift for training and connecting with Canines. Therefore, I trained Brinks to be a Task Trained Service Dog consistent with The American with Disabilities Act in addition to becoming one of the organizations main trainers.
Consistent with the life purpose Brinks had previously shown me we co-founded Freedom Fidos in 2014. After receiving our IRS 501(C)(3),nonprofit approval rating in South Carolina Freedom Fidos spent two years there before moving the Organization to Georgia.
Fidos4Heroes( DBA Freedom Fidos) received our IRS 501(C)(3) approval rating in addition to our Georgia Corporation letter in September 2016.
Currently, since its inception five years ago, Freedom Fidos has created 42 Service Dog Teams. Our organization has watched our handlers go from home-bound to never home, deeply afraid to fearless, powerless to powerful, always sick to mostly well, deep despair to high hope, lonely to never alone, always dizzy to C’mon-lets get busy, isolated to thoroughly engaged, falling to the floor to standing strong, lying in the dark to blissful smiles at the theme park, misunderstood to a powerful voice, blending into a crowd to iconic, entitled to elevating, and loners to leaders. The countless resiliency stories of the human spirit which we witness on a repeated basis not only could fill a book, but also, constantly make every member of the Organization thank Brinks for being the first voice to let us know our calling and commission. This view we are afforded as we watch nature’s ultimate healers collaborate with the determination of our handlers to keep serving their communities provides us with a never ending sense of purpose and fulfillment in addition to an unquenchable desire to do more. We are committed to keep making a difference as we save the lives of Canines and Veterans.