"I really just want to help every dog owner out there and make their life easier," Bill Feldman tells PEOPLE
Bill Feldman always wanted a dog, but now he says that without one, he wouldn’t be alive.
While serving in the Navy, and then as a captain on a yacht, he was never able to adopt one.
“I always thought about having a dog,” Feldman, 47, tells PEOPLE. “I was lonely, dealing with mental health issues from being in the Navy and really could have used a companion.”
Four years ago, when he was finally back on the mainland, he went to a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, shelter and found his new best friend – Henry, a mix of labrador and English pointer.
He not only fell in love with his four-legged companion right away, he also started to enjoy their daily routine, which include endless walks and trips the dog park.
“I cherished walking him more than any other activity,” Feldman says. “The only thing that bothered me was the leash.”
Henry would dart away and sometimes the leash flew out of Feldman’s hand. On a couple occasions, he almost lost the pup.
“I decided to create something for myself that would solve this problem. I wanted to make a handless leash,” he says. “I wanted to have my hands free.”
He got a sailing glove (a fingerless glove with a leather palm) and sewed a marine “snap shackle,” which is a piece of stainless steel, to the palm.
“I took it with me to the dog park and everyone started asking what it was. They wanted one for themselves,” Feldman says. “I called my sister, who knows the pet industry well, and she said nothing out there like this existed.”
Bill used almost every cent he had to his name and developed the idea into a product that all dog owners could use.
After six prototypes that he shared with friends in the dog park, the glove soon turned into a wristband.
Feldman’s company, Liberty Wristband, launched on July 4, 2014 in Denver. He continues to raise money through a crowd sourcing campaign on the company’s website so that he can create more and sell them across the country.
Feldman says the wristband isn’t just for people who don’t want to hold a leash – it’s also for those who can’t.
“When I got a call from a disabled veteran saying I saved his life, I knew I had to make this happen,” he says. “This can also help people who are in wheelchairs or have trouble using their hands.”
After being exposed to thousands of dog owners, he become very sensitive to what makes the device unique: Hands freed control, security and peace of mind knowing they have have a manual quick release.
Although Feldman is “proud of himself” and “more determined than ever,” his passion made him penniless and homeless.
Feldman currently lives in a shelter in Denver, Colorado, that helps veterans with many different types of issues – and his best friend Henry is always by his side.
Feldman works on his business from computers at public libraries, local hotels and cafes. He also takes public transportation to get to meetings around the city.
His loyal business partner, who served with him in the Navy, has supported him from day one and helps him with his cell phone bill every month.
“He’s an amazing human being, and I’m very lucky he believed in me,” Feldman says. “I really just want to help every dog owner out there and make their life easier.”
Feldman added: “If I didn’t have Henry or this project, I wouldn’t be breathing right now,” he says. “Both have given me a new life. I have to stick to this.”