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About Us

Who We Are

Retrieving Freedom, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to training service dogs to help people. Our primary focuses are training dogs to serve the needs of Veterans and children with Autism. We breed and train chosen dogs that exhibit specific traits necessary to perform tasks to help these individuals, and we believe in matching the dog to the recipient.

Our training program isn’t designed to train each dog to follow a certain program. Instead, dogs are trained to meet the needs of their specific recipient. The dogs go through more than two years of training to meet our strict standards for a successful placement.

RFI operates out of two locations, Waverly, Iowa, and Sedalia, Missouri as an accredited member of Assistance Dogs International.

The service dogs we train help improve the lives of the people they are placed with. Not only do they help with specific chores and perform tasks associated with their training, but they also offer companionship and unconditional love.

The mission of Retrieving Freedom, Inc. is to change lives through the training and placement of service dogs for Veterans with disabilities and children with Autism.

Retrieving Freedom Board of Directors

The RFI Board is comprised of individuals who work together to make sure we are serving the needs of our recipients, along with looking for ways to raise more money so we can help match more people with the service dogs they need. The current board is comprised of:

  • RFI Board Member Clay DahlquistAl Hogen,
    Board Chair
  • RFI Board Member Rene MasseyRene Massey
  • RFI Board Member Bobby HaydenBobby Hayden
  • RFI Board Member Lynn LowderLynn Lowder

Retrieving Freedom's Leadership Team

  • Heather Dawson

    Heather Dawson

    Chief Financial Officer

    Heather has been in the finance and accounting field for over 15 years. She comes to RFI with extensive experience in corporate accounting management as well as financial analytics. Her most recent position was as the Financial Controller for a manufacturing facility in the Mid South. After years in the corporate world, Heather is thrilled to be changing the focus of her career and to have the opportunity to work with an organization as impactful as RFI. Heather lives in Lake Ozark, MO with her husband David and their four children, Deacon, Olivia, Jack, and Caroline.

  • Kyle Cory-Yaeggi

    Kyle Cory-Yaeggi

    Director of Operations

    Kyle's passion for the service dog industry was fueled after he graduated from Iowa State University and moved out west. There, he worked for years training dogs for mobility assistance, children with mental and physical disabilities, as well as facility dogs. Kyle was hired by Retrieving Freedom in 2017 working nationally, overseeing training and placement of dogs and applicants. He now works as the Director of Operations, managing both facilities.

  • John Drach

    John Drach

    Training Director

    John has been active in the Assistance Dog industry for over 30 years. He started training Hearing Dogs and went on to train Service Dogs, Seizure Dogs and Autism Dogs. John has been active with Assistance Dogs International serving on the Compliance Committee as well as the Trainer Certification Committee. He has also developed Apprentice Assistance Dog Trainer programs to train new trainers in the field. John enjoys matching highly trained dogs with individuals who are looking for a dog who can change their lives. John and his wife Molly live in Iowa and have two sons.

  • Trent Dirks

    Trent Dirks

    Resource Development Director

    Trent is an Army veteran with more than 9 years of service and a deployment to Afghanistan. Trent began as a recipient of a Retrieving Freedom Service Dog, Tracer, then began volunteering with the organization. After attending a treatment program for PTSD, he continued to volunteer at RFI in hopes of helping other Veterans get the help and service dogs they needed. Trent says he is "blessed beyond measure to be able to make a career out of helping other Veterans and children with Autism get service dogs to assist them in improving their quality of life. It's a dream come true. I was born, raised, and live in Iowa with my son Bently and service dog Tracer. We all enjoy spending time outside hunting, fishing, and hiking."

  • Sara Shadid

    Sara Shadid

    Program Coordinator

    Sara has been involved with Retrieving Freedom in a variety of ways since 2014. She first became involved by participating in a Wartburg College course which was partnered with Retrieving Freedom. She continued to volunteer throughout college and upon graduation. In 2016 she became the organization's intern, taking on a number of roles. She was hired in early 2019 and works as the Program Coordinator at the Iowa location.

  • Emma Leach

    Emma Leach

    Obedience Dog Trainer

    Emma's love for all things dog-related began at just 8 years old when she was gifted a young Labrador Retriever named Kelsey. Her youth involvement in training gradually turned into a volunteer opportunity to teach and lead the local 4-H program. After earning her Bachelor's Degree in Animal Science from the University of Missouri and other miscellaneous training certifications, Emma began her professional career working for a dog training company in Springfield, MO, training pet and therapy dogs. Emma and her husband Joshua live happily with their four dogs: Kali, Belle, Josie, and Captain. Emma joined Retrieving Freedom in 2020 as the Program Coordinator at the Missouri location. She is excited to be able to provide quality services to those in need.

  • Cassidy Cooley

    Cassidy Cooley

    Assistance Dog Trainer

    Cassidy joined the Marine Corps after high school where she worked as a Combat Engineer with 7th Engineer Support Battalion. While in the Marine Corps, she attended Animal Behavior College and graduated as a certified dog trainer. Upon leaving the Marine Corps Cassidy earned her bachelor's degree from The Evergreen State College and worked as a behavioral therapist for children with autism. Cassidy joined Retrieving Freedom in June of 2019.

  • Bailey Inman

    Bailey Inman

    Assistance Dog Trainer

    After fostering two service dogs in training and working at a service dog training kennel during her undergraduate studies, Bailey decided to change paths to pursue a career with working dogs. Upon graduation from the University of Missouri, she moved to Philadelphia where she worked with scent detection and search and rescue canines. She then completed a year of graduate work in New York City with a focus on canine spatial awareness. In July of 2019, Bailey joined RFI as a Dog Trainer at the Missouri Facility.

  • Megan Hiller

    Megan Hiller

    Facility Coordinator

    Megan started working with Retrieving Freedom on a volunteer level while still a college student at Iowa State University. She raised her first service dog in training through the Animal Science program at Iowa State that partners with Retrieving Freedom. After graduation, Megan moved closer to Waverly so she could continue volunteering with Retrieving Freedom. She was hired in late 2020 and works as the Iowa Facility Coordinator.

  • Jessica Colbe

    Jessica Coble

    Missouri Facility Manager

    Jessica has had a lifelong dream of working with animals in a unique and special way, and she found that by working at Retrieving Freedom. Working at Retrieving Freedom has given her an opportunity to combine her love for dogs and desire to help people in need - it provides hope for both humans and animals, and she loves being a part of it. Jessica is a senior at Central Methodist University, studying Sports Management, Business, and Criminal Justice and is from Sedalia, Missouri.

  • Hannah Keller

    Hannah Keller

    Kennel Technician

    Hannah has always loved working with animals, but has a special place in her heart for dogs. She plans to go to college to become a Veterinary Technician. Hannah enjoys working at Retrieving Freedom and helping to fulfill the mission. She loves that her work with the various dogs in training will eventually help them in their career as a service dog.

  • Izabelle Bunn

    Izabelle Bunn

    Kennel Technician

    Izabelle's passion for working with animals began while she was working at a cat sanctuary. Izabelle graduated in 2019 and is hoping to pursue a career as a Veterinary Technician. One of her favorite things about working at Retrieving Freedom is learning the dogs' different personalities.

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