Freedom For Fido – A Story Of Finding Purpose In Retirement

Today’s story is about a particular woman’s path to finding Purpose in retirement.

It’s a true story that provides a roadmap to find something that brings meaning to your retirement years.

It’s also a story about my wife.

This is the story of my wife and her path to finding a new Purpose in retirement. Share on X

Finding Purpose in retirement

Finding Purpose In Retirement

Since November 7, 1994, my wife, Jackie, has had a clearly defined Purpose in her life.  

On Being A Stay-At-Home Mom

On that date some 25 years ago, our daughter was born and our dreams of becoming parents became a reality.  For several years prior to our daughter’s birth, we had talked frequently about our mutual desire for Jackie to be a stay-at-home Mom.  We planned accordingly and saved 100% of her pay to avoid becoming dependent on her income to cover our obligatory expenses.  We bought “less house” than we could technically afford.  We drove cheaper cars than we could have otherwise.  We had a plan, and we made it work.

purpose as a stay at home mom
The dream of being a stay-at-home Mom becomes a reality

On November 7, 1994, Jackie became a stay-at-home Mom.

For the next 18 years, she was a fulltime Mom and savored every minute of it.  She was active in our daughter’s school and led the organization of parent volunteers at various schools throughout the years.  She enjoyed taking our daughter to her extra-curricular activities and enjoying having a direct role in her development into a woman. We have no regrets and are pleased that we were able to give our daughter the very best that we could through her important development years.  Our daughter is married now, and we recently became grandparents. 

Oh, the joy of watching as your baby grows into a mature adult, and seeing the cycle begin again.

On Caring For An Aging Parent

When our daughter was in her final years of High School, my mother-in-law moved in with us.  She was starting a 7-year slide through the horrible disease of Alzheimer’s and was no longer able to live on her own.  We gladly took her in and were happy that we had the freedom to allow Jackie to care for her without the obligation of a paying job.

aging parents
One of the last outings with Mom

For the next 4 years, Jackie cared for her Mom in our home.  It was a full-time job, with periods of both joy and sorrow.  There was the joy of being able to take care of a person you love and the sorrow of watching them progress through their inevitable decline.

Three years ago, Mom fell and broker her hip.  At the doctor’s urging, we all agreed that it was time for Mom to move into a nursing home to receive the medical care she required.  For the past three years, Jackie has spent extensive time with her Mom in the nursing home. While the burden of providing full-time care was over, the work of her daughter continued in a strong supportive role.  One of Jackie’s main Purposes in life was to continue to give her Mom the best life she could provide, and she always found a way to bring a smile to her Mom’s face.

Retirement For A Stay-At-Home Spouse

I retired from my corporate job in June 2018. 

3 months later, Jackie’s mom passed away.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but her Mom’s passing represented a “Retirement”, of sorts, for Jackie.  After being focused on providing care to the women in her life for 25 years, that work was suddenly behind her.  Add to that the adjustment of her high maintenance husband (did I REALLY just write those words?) being home full time, and she found herself in a period of significant adjustment.

The retirement adjustment for the stay-at-home spouse is just as significant as the one for the spouse leaving the workforce. Share on X

It’s strange to think about the retirement from your “work career” being triggered by the death of a parent, but in reality, it’s a surprisingly similar adjustment.  Whether your “occupation” is a paid career or a stay-at-home spouse who dedicates their life to caring for others, there comes a point where the work is done.

We didn’t really see it coming, and it took some time to adjust.  

The Loss Of A Purpose

For the final few months of 2018, Jackie went through a transition phase.  Her Mom was gone and our daughter was 2,000+ miles away.  The birth of our granddaughter in November 2018 added some joy, but also heightened awareness of the physical distance from our daughter and her family.

We talked about what was happening at the time, and realized after a few months that Jackie had lost a significant Purpose in her life.  She was enjoying her pottery, she was active in volunteering in our community and we both enjoyed our increasing focus on fitness.

But something was lacking.

Life without Purpose feels a bit empty, and it’s not a good place to be.

We all need a Purpose, regardless of how we get to retirement. Share on X

Freedom For Fido – The Discovery Of A Purpose

Finding a Purpose in retirement is critical for everyone, regardless of your path to retirement.  According to this article, 94% of people report an “enhanced sense of Purpose in life” when they find a meaningful way to volunteer their time to help other people or a specific cause.  It was certainly true for my wife.

Here’s her story of how Freedom For Fido developed into a new Purpose.  It’s a lesson for anyone who is searching for Purpose and illustrates an effective way to build something that matters in your life. 

A few months into her “retirement” following the death of her Mom, Jackie happened to watch the following episode of Returning The Favor, an awesome Facebook program where Mike Rowe visits charities, produces a video highlighting the good work they’re doing, and leaves them with a surprise gift to support their cause.  This episode focused on a charity in Oregon called Fences For Fido which provides free fencing to dogs who live their lives on a chain: 

The video connected with her in a powerful way.

Jackie has always had a soft spot in her heart for dogs that live their life on a chain, and we’re frequently troubled as we drive past the many dogs who are chained out in our little slice of Appalachia.

We need to find a way to free dogs from living their lives on a chain in our area. And, just like that, Freedom For Fido was born. Share on X

Her passion for launching a charity was obvious, and I encouraged her to pursue the idea.

Her path to finding Purpose in retirement was becoming clear.

Launching A Charity

Jackie reached out to the folks at Fences For Fido and, with their support, she began making plans to launch her own non-profit charity.  She came up with the name Freedom For Fido, and within a few months month she had:

  • Filed the paperwork for, and received approval of, a 501c3 non-profit charity status with the IRS
  • Purchased the domain
  • Established a bank account and P.O. box for the new charity
  • Established a Facebook page and an Instagram account for Freedom For Fido
  • Build a Board Of Directors, and held her first Board meeting

She was on fire with a Purpose, and it showed.  We both believe this is something she was “meant” to do, and we’ve had enough amazing things happen in the past few months to realize that this is something God had intended for her.  The pieces began falling into place at an amazing pace:

  • A store owner offered to make t-shirts for us, and donate the proceeds.
  • Another store owner offered to make dog houses for us (that’s him in the picture below).
  • A local kennel owner volunteered to build the fences.
  • A woman contacted us proactively and gave a generous donation, enough to build our first fence.
  • A woman volunteered to “write Grants” for the new charity.
finding purpose in retirement
Zeke & Jackie, with the FIRST FreedomForFido doghouse! Thanks for building it, Zeke!!

The amazing thing about the pace of these developments was the fact that all of it seemed to be happening so easily.  Jackie never asked any of the people for their help, they all proactively offered to volunteer in whatever way worked for them. 

The community recognized the need for this charity in our area, and the flood of volunteers has been overwhelming.

Things seem to fall into place when you focus on finding Purpose in retirement. It becomes obvious what you're meant to do. Share on X

finding purpose in retirement

Our Daughter Draws The Logo

A particularly rewarding development during Jackie’s quest for finding Purpose in retirement was the fact that our daughter designed the logo!  Jackie was talking to her on the phone about Freedom For Fido and asked if she’d be willing to design the logo.  Our daughter has always been artistic and sent several designs back for Jackie to review.  It’s been rewarding to turn Freedom For Fido into a family affair, and we’ll forever treasure the fact that our daughter a part of the launching of Jackie’s new charity.

Building A Charity Website

Given my experience with The Retirement Manifesto, I agreed to take the lead on designing a website.  A charity website is significantly different from a blog, and I struggled to put the pieces in place.  I’d never had to figure out how to build a “payment processor” into a website (for donations), and I’d never built a form.  Not only is my wife benefiting from the satisfaction of building a new Purpose, but her husband is also learning a few things along the way.  (Plot tease:  I also taught myself how to do video editing…more in a moment).

Jackie and I sat side by side for hours at a time, and we’re proud to announce that the Freedom For Fido website is now LIVE!  We’ve done it entirely by ourselves, and we’re pleased with the results.  If you have a minute, we’d be honored if you’d click the link and have a look around. is now live!

Our First “Fence Build”

Last week, we completed our first fence build at Freedom For Fido! In a way, it felt like the conclusion of the first chapter in my wife’s mission of finding Purpose in retirement.

“Joyce” (name changed to protect the privacy of our first recipient) is a wonderful person, with a great attitude, who has fallen on some very hard times.  After earning a Masters degree, she had to leave the workforce to care for her aging mother.  She became an amputee when an infection took a leg.  She loves dogs and has rescued 6 “hard” cases (including a beautiful Great Pyrenees who was shot in the head, twice!). 

She struggles to walk the six dogs twice a day due to her amputation and lack of a level walking area, but she does it anyway.  She has a heart for dogs.

Jackie & Joyce brainstorming fence layout ideas.

Her mother recently passed away, and Joyce is digging herself out of a big hole.  She recently bought a foreclosed “crack house”, and is working hard to improve her property.  Unfortunately, she has no money after extended time off caring for her mother and the expenses she paid as a result. She’s filled three dumpsters with trash she’s removed from the foreclosed home but is putting any future improvements on hold until she can rebuild her savings.  During our time with her, she landed a new job, her first since she had to quit to take care of her mom. 

Joyce has spirit, and she was the perfect first recipient for a fence from Freedom For Fido.

The build was rewarding beyond words.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I thought it’d be best to simply share a few pictures from our first event.

Photos From The First Freedom For Fido Build

Billy, another volunteer, loading the fencing!
A lot of time in a cage is coming to an end…


The First Taste Of Freedom For 6 Dogs

As we worked on the build, we were all excited for the moment the 6 rescue dogs were “freed”.  It exceeded our expectations.  Here are some pictures from their very first minutes in the new fenced in yard!

Freedom For F

finding a retirement purpose

stay-at-home mom retirement

A Freedom For Fido Video!!

I’ve been planning to teach myself how to do video editing (an item on my Retirement Bucket List), so I took advantage of the first build to produce my first video!

If you want to watch the 6 dogs experience Freedom for the first time, I encourage you to watch this short video from The First Build (tip:  if you’re in a hurry, jump to the 3:00 mark to see the “Moment Of Freedom”).  

Parental Warning:  Kissing may be involved…

I hope you enjoy the show!


Regardless of how your “life of working for a living” comes to an end, we all need to focus on finding Purpose in retirement. 

Consider finding a way to give back.  Your life will be better as a result.

If you need proof, just ask Jackie.  Better yet, ask a few of the Fido’s who are now Free because of her new Purpose.  While the dogs can’t talk, I’m sure you’d feel their sense of joy.  I know we did last week. 

Freedom For Fido.

Finding Purpose In Retirement. 

PS:  We’re leaving next week on our Great American Road Trip, and we’re hoping to raise sufficient funds before we return to build fences for 2 other applicants already in the FreedomForFido queue.  If you’d have a heart for dogs who live their lives on a chain, I’d appreciate if you consider making a small donation. If you’re interested, simply click here to donate.  Thanks in advance, and apologies to anyone who is offended by the request (hey, it IS my wife we’re talking about, gimme a break – wink).


  1. Wow, what an awesome idea for a charity! That is so cool, and you could see that woman’s gratitude in the video, that must feel great.

    I constantly rack my brain about starting a charity, but am not sure what would work and be feasible. I like donating money, but to be frank that’s easy to do. Having something like this is a way to bring more meaning as you clearly show.

    You better post pics from your trip, we’ll be living vicariously through you!

    1. We were a bit overwhelmed with figuring out how to get the ball rolling, but (like anything) just took it one step at a time and figured it all out! And, no worries, I’ll have lots of pics from the trip!

  2. Lovely wife Lovely life. Have a great trip, I am up in WA I will keep an eye out for you passing through.
    Donated to the great cause.

  3. Love the story and your passions, you two (and your pups) are quite unique as a family unit. Thanks for sharing Jackie’s amazing journey with us – I never thought of retirement in quite that way … but I knew taking care of you was a full time job all by itself. Enjoy the journey out west!!

    1. Hey Kirk, I’m just doing my best to keep her from “retiring”. I’m sure Mona can relate. Wink.

      We’re excited for the trip, hard to believe we leave next Monday! You and I are ships passing in the night, my friend. Hope to see you in Montana late this summer?

  4. That’s an amazing story. Thanks for sharing. It’s good to see a caretaker like your wife making these transition. I’m a stay-at-home dad now so this is a valuable lesson. You need a purpose to enjoy life.
    Jackie found a way to help society. That’s the right way to retire.
    Have a safe trip! We’ll try to meet at the OR coast. I’ll PM you later.

  5. Wow, wow, and wow. good for you you!! this just made my day. I just retired and volunteer with Hospice, this just makes your heart sing. thank you for sharing.

    1. Hospice is a great cause, thank you for volunteering to an amazing work. I imagine that’s difficult and rewarding at the same time. Good for you for finding a way to “give back”, it’s rewarding “work”!

  6. Ooooo as I read this we are 24 months away from retirement and me…the traveling spouse, this time in Alaska (16 moves in 33 years!) is anxious about finding THE purpose in retirement. I ❤️ this story so much! We’ve always rescued dogs and I see us working in a similar area. (The number of chained and stray dogs up here is heartbreaking) With my background in nonprofit development and PR I think we need to partner! Love love LOVE THIS. The joy in the dogs is so obvious. This made my morning. Thanks for sharing your story

    1. Hi Melissa, This is Jackie, Fritz’s wife. Thanks for the encouragement for Freedom For Fido. It has been amazing watching it bloom in such a short time. I would LOVE to partner with you! 🙂 It would be neat to see a “Freedom For Fido” type charity start because of this. Email me, if you want to talk or bounce ideas off of each other. Love your state, by the way, it is beautiful!

  7. Hi Fritz, Wonderful and inspiring. Does your wife’s charity have an EIN number yet? I want to make a donation from my DAF but I wasn’t able to locate it by name. Keep on becoming! Paul

    1. Paul, thanks so much for your willingness to donate. My wife will communicate directly with you via e-mail. We have an EIN, but it seems it takes some time for the government to flush it through the system (surprised, not). Thanks again! Keep on becoming, indeed!

  8. Paul, Jackie here.. Thank you so much for your offer! Yes, I do have an EIN number. I will send it to you via private email.

  9. I am impressed and inspired by your wife’s rapid non profit startup and making a difference already.

    In a recent donation I made to another charity on line it asked if I wanted to cover the credit card/paypal fee or leave to charity to cover. I think most people will say they will cover it. So if there is a way you can include that feature on your website for donations that’s an extra ~3% going to the charity. Good Luck!

  10. Great story. A touching post and I really learnt something today.

    My wife also stayed at home to look after our daughter who is now 17 and is in that phase where she wants her space (except for when she needs a taxi service of course!) I went FI about the same time as you and during the research I noted I needed to invent a purpose and have done that. But I confess I did not think enough about my Wife’s needs in respect of purpose. She has been a brilliant mother and done more than her fair share of caring for relatives too. Those needs have now significantly reduced and we have recognised we need to do some work on her purpose going forward.

    You are a very lucky man to have such a wonderful partner. And thanks for the lesson today.

    1. PJ, I think many of us are guilty of not realizing the significance of the “retirement adjustment” for a stay-at-home spouse. Finding a Purpose is important for all us of, and I’m glad sharing our story helped you “learn something today”!

      And, yes, I am a very lucky man to have Jackie as my wife!

  11. You’re amazing Jackie! That’s divine inspiration for you! We’re so proud of you and your big heart.

    So Fritz, how does it feel to be the man behind the woman? 😜

    Can’t wait to hear more about FFF! You’re off to a wonderful start with “Joyce”.

  12. Great story and congrats guys. This is a fantastic thing to do. Moving back south and seeing all of the stray dogs makes me quite sad. It is, unfortunately, a part of the culture down here. Keep up the good work!

    1. It is sad how big a problem the stray dogs are in this part of the country. The dog rescue where we volunteer rescues ~1,000 dogs/year, primarily strays from a 40 mile radius of our retirement cabin. Sad, indeed.

  13. Thanks for the great story! I live in Guilford County N.C. where a law was passed a few years ago making it illegal to chain a dog. Every surrounding county eventually passed the same law. There are organizations that operate like your wife’s to build the fences. Perhaps you could lobby your local government to make chaining illegal. Best wishes🐶

    1. We’re aware of that “movement”, Lucy, and sincerely hopes it gains traction here. Perhaps engaging in the lobbying side of dog rescue is something we’ll consider when we get back from The Great American Road Trip. Certainly a solid fix to an ongoing problem.

  14. What a beautiful way to give back! Jackie, I’m glad you found a purpose that suits who you are.

  15. What an awesome story and a great cause! Way to go Jackie!
    And thanks for sharing with all of us. I look forward to seeing the next fence build too.

  16. Hi Fritz,
    Finding purpose in retirement was a concern of mine…the blog has helped for sure.
    I loved that you two worked together to get some of this up and rolling. Our best times are when Dan and I work together for a common, shared goal.
    Going over to make a small donation now.
    Good luck!

  17. Awesome! This is what FI is all about. Time to do amazing things like this. Congrats to you and your wife on this great achievement. Keep spreading goodness. And great work on the video too!

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