Volunteer of the Month – August 2018

service dog Liam

Volunteer of the Month – August 2018

Volunteer Spotlight

Each month Retrieving Independence recognizes one of our dedicated volunteers. With a group of more than 50 active volunteers pouring love and training into our service dogs, we are forever indebted and grateful for these people!

This month we’d like you to meet Ruth Kortebein and Liam. We hope you enjoy reading their story as told by Ruth herself.


I grew up in the Milwaukee, WI area and throughout my childhood years a dog was always part of our family.  In my early 30’s I finally got my first golden retriever puppy while living in Pennsylvania – there started a long life of deep love for dogs – because it was ‘my’ dog, not the family dog.   

I am a registered nurse with a business background who moved every few years…with my golden Tucker. Coming home every night from work or a business trip to my ‘furry’ boy was pure joy!   I moved to Knoxville from Austin, TX in 2000 and married in 2002. In 2003 we lost Tucker at an early age to cancer – my heart was broken!  In 2004 Duffy entered our lives – a funny, carefree and loving golden!  In 2006 I started a pet sitting business while living in Knoxville.  This business further fueled my love for dogs and educated me on many different breeds.  After a couple of years the business was sold as we moved to Franklin where I resumed my nursing career.   With my husband’s support I retired from my career in 2016 with a desire to get more involved in ‘life’ – not just work.  

Ruth and LiamI stumbled on Retrieving Independence when I went to tour The Farm in November 2016 and Vicki Diestelkamp was my tour guide.  She asked me if I was interested in puppy raising as her dog Bailey, had just had a litter of puppies; some would be trained as service dogs by Retrieving Independence. This was the beginning of learning about RI, the mission of the organization and falling in love with the idea of helping a dog reach his potential as a service dog along with their inmate trainers.  How cool to be part of this great team where the inmates are transformed as they train their RI dog for a life of service, thereby transforming another life! My first exposure to this teamwork was to bring home my first puppy Liam on December 28, 2016 to puppy raise and continue furloughing him as he grew, learned and graduated on June 1, 2018.  In March 2017 I also began to volunteer by driving the RI bus every other Friday to Turney Center Industrial Complex– returning dogs that had come out on Tuesday and picking up the weekend furlough dogs.  

I am blessed to be able to continue volunteering with RI as we all work with future service dogs in training to ultimately meet our goal of transforming a future recipient’s life!