Max and Prince's Story

Posted on: in [ Placed Service Dog Teams, Success Stories ]

Placement | August 2020

I have officially been placed as a service dog! After two years of hard work, I'm so proud to announce that Max and I have been deemed the perfect match, and we couldn't agree more. We passed our public access test together, along with the rest of our family, and can officially call ourselves a Service Dog Team. Day in, and day out, we are there for each other.

Thank you to all who have supported us along the way - my breeder and puppy fosters, my teacher foster, my Wartburg College students, my trusty trainers, and most important of all - my fur-ever family. We couldn't have done this without you!


Max's Story

“Mighty Max” is a name our brave boy deserves—spirited and strong, he conquers so many challenges on a daily basis that we may never know the depth of them all. Thankfully, he already has an amazing support system, and we can’t wait to welcome the next addition to his team: an ADA-certified service dog! We are so fortunate to be working with Retrieving Freedom, Inc. (RFI), a remarkable non-profit organization that matches service dogs to children with autism.

Change is hard for most of us, but can be especially excruciating for a child with autism. Each time Max faces an unexpected set of circumstances or a change from one activity to another, we all face the potential of a painful and distressing meltdown. His anxiety can easily escalate, making seemingly ordinary tasks difficult—attending church, going to the store, or eating out can be stressful to a debilitating degree. Visits to the doctor, dentist, and various therapists are even weightier—many times the number of steps (and range of emotion) it takes to arrive at such appointments is beyond description. Even “fun” activities can be overwhelming to Max, making family outings complicated at best (and impossible at worst), and he rarely makes it through a night without some sort of sleep disturbance, even at 7 years old. We could all use a little extra rest.

Max is a bright, joyful, affectionate boy. He has a fantastic sense of humor and loves to laugh. His heart is sweet and big enough to captivate anyone. Max is always working hard as we address his developmental delays and intellectual growth, and we are always working hard to cultivate his confidence when it comes to trying new things, encountering obstacles, and facing fears. We feel certain that a service dog will have a positive and powerful impact on Max’s life—and ours—in countless ways. Since the Americans with Disabilities Act allows service dogs in all public spaces, a dog matched with Max and trained to suit his particular needs will be an invaluable addition to our family, making all sorts of outings more manageable. RFI is searching for the perfect animal for Max—a dog that can be trained to interrupt and abbreviate meltdowns, provide confidence and security in tense situations, and even sleep with him (to help us get that extra rest!)

Training service dogs is expensive, and we hope to help RFI by raising some money in Max’s honor. We are profoundly thankful to the wonderful work RFI does, and so honored to be a part of it. If you are moved to donate to RFI for our Mighty Max, we would be grateful!

Prince's Journey

Stage 1 Introduction

Hi there! My name is Prince. I am proud to have been selected to enter the training program at Retrieving Freedom. My parents are "Faith," who is fostered by the Sanderman family, and "Olaf" of RidgeView Labradors. I am so excited to spend the next 8 months or so with my new volunteer foster home, Skyler! 

Throughout Stage 1, I will learn how to behave well in public, basic obedience, and lots of socialization. I understand it takes a very special dog in order to complete the program, as RFI has a high standard to pass a dog as an official Service Dog. I am aware that I may be one of the dogs whose purpose is outside of service work, so I'll be posting updates monthly to allow you to follow my journey through the program!

August 2018 - 2 months old

I am such a happy puppy! I've been spending time learning my name, potty training, and basic obedience with Skyler. 

September 2018 - 3 months old

I began going to college with Skyler. We go to classes every day, and she says I do a great job keeping myself entertained. Most of the time I just like to snooze.

October 2018 - 4 months old

Happy Halloween! Naturally, I had to dress up as a Prince. I was very patient in my costume.

November 2018 - 5 months old

I continue to go to college classes and impress Skyler daily with how quickly I am learning. I am very patient at home with the cats. I let them paw at me and I just lay there. Mom thinks this is a sign that I would make a great service dog for a child with autism some day.

December 2018 - 6 months old

I am getting big! I have been working on socialization in public. I go all over the place: grocery shopping, public events, and of course, school.

May 2019 - 11 months old

So proud of you, Skyler! Thanks for letting me walk across the stage with you. I did my best to behave well during your ceremony. I have been so proud to wear your school's name, Hawkeye Community College, on my vest! Everyone there was so kind and understanding throughout my training. You were great when it came to public awareness on campus. Congratulations on your graduation! We can both be considered graduates now... kind of. I am graduating to Stage 2 Training! 

Stage 2 Introduction

Wahoo! I have officially entered Stage 2 of my training, and I am so excited! During this stage, I will begin working more with my RFI staff trainer and in the Impact Programs. The past 10 months with my foster Skyler have been a great learning experience, and we are both excited to see what's to come! The next 8 months will be spent working with college students, at-risk teens, and middle school students. I will also begin working on intermediate tasks associated with my future placement! 

June 2019 - 1 Year old!

Woohoo, I celebrated my first birthday this month! On another exciting note, I have been paired with a local middle school teacher who is going to get me used to the school system. There are a lot of potential distractions at school that I need to get used to, in case I work in a school with my future recipient. I'll be spending my summer getting to know my teacher foster, working with my RFI trainer, and spending the weekends with my foster Skyler.

August 2019 - 14 months old

I got to go swimming! I love swimming, especially with all of my RFI friends. The local community pool hosted a doggy dip to end the pool season, and Skyler threw the ball for me over and over again - you can see in the photo how worn out I was at the end!

September 2019 - 15 months old

Time to go back to school! This school year I will go to middle school one day per week with Mr. Hamilton, and work with my trainer and Wartburg student the other days. And as always, I will go home with my original foster Skyler on the weekends. Since I moved on to Stage 2, Skyler got me a sister! No, really - my sister! We have the same parents. I'm proud to introduce you to JayLynn, who is beginning her training toward becoming a service dog.

November 2019 - 17 months old

My trainer says I'm advancing well through Stage 2. She thinks it's time to move on to Stage 3! Even better news, she thinks I'm best suited for a child with autism. I can't wait to begin working on tasks that will help a child in the future!

Stage 3 Introduction

Over the last year and a half I have been working diligently to get to this part of training... Stage 3! I switched to my Stage 3 trainer at RFI and he has confirmed that I will be working toward becoming a service dog for a child with autism. During this stage I will begin to meet potential recipients, learn final training tasks, finish up my role in the impact programs, and complete the 100 required one-on-one hours with my future recipient. This stage is a 4 to 6 month process, and I understand there is still a chance that I might not complete the program due to health or performance. I'm looking forward to sharing with you about my first visits with potential recipients, trips into public, and other highlights throughout my final stage of training.

December 2019 - 18 months old

My stage 3 trainers have been taking me all over the country to meet potential recipients. I really love working with each of them. I learn something new every day and something tells me that they are learning just as much from me, too.

January 2020 - 19 months old

I have entered my last Wartburg class. My student is really nice and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together! I continue to go to school with my teacher foster, too. He is an artist and has made some really beautiful portraits of me.

March 2020 - 21 months old

I am nearing the end of my training. I worked with my Wartburg student for a few months, but our time was cut short due to a global pandemic. We will miss each other! I am thankful for our time spent together. I've continued going to school with my teacher foster and planning trips to work with my potential placement.

April 2020 - 22 months old

I am not able to work in public or with clients due to the quarantine, so I've been spending lots of extra time with my wonderful trainer. She is preparing to send me to the Missouri location, where I will finish my training and hopefully get ready to be placed as a service dog!

May 2020 - 23 months old


On the first of May, I made the trip to the RFI location in Sedalia, MO with my brothers Pete and Bentley to finalize our training. Over the last week I was able to say "cya later" to my breeding foster family, puppy foster family, and teacher foster family. A big thank-you goes out to all of you who helped me reach this point! As soon as quarantine bans are lifted, I will begin to work directly with my client!

June 2020 - 2 years old!


I celebrated my second birthday this month! I continue to train with my handler at Retrieving Freedom and am looking forward to spending time with my fur-ever buddy soon!

July 2020

I have entered the home with my new person as a trial run for our future placement! Wish us luck during this last step of training!

1 comment

  • Kirstin Singmeuangthong | Mar 6th 2021 @ 11:20 PM

    This is a wonderful way of talking about what goes into training a service dog. I myself have a son with Autism (who coincidentally also is named Max) some of the parts really made me cry and I really appreciate knowing more about Mighty Max.

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