Pets for Vets – Healing Vets and Saving Pets
By Sarah Miller
All across the world, dogs are waiting to find their forever homes and our own nation’s veterans have fought to protect us. Both the dogs and our active duty just want to go home.
Many veterans come home wounded but not all wounds are visible. These invisible wounds are no less painful than the visible wounds and can make it difficult for our veterans to transition back into life at home. Such invisible wounds can include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, hypervigilance, panic disorders, and depression.
Not only do the dogs need the veterans, the veterans need their dogs. Pets for Vets is a national program whose goal is to give back to those who have served our country, thanking them for their service. To do so, they aim to lessen the emotional wounds of veterans by matching them with a shelter or rescue dog that has been specifically selected to match their personality. While not intended to be service dogs, the dogs help provide a sense of comfort for the veterans.
Before the trainers can complete a match, they meet with the veteran multiple times to get a sense of who they are, what they’re looking for, and if a dog would be a good fit for them. Then, they evaluate dogs from rescues or shelters to find the best match. These dogs are evaluated for their sociability, energy level, patience, and tolerance. Once the trainer has selected the dog, they train the dog for 6-8 weeks for rehabilitation and good manners in order to fit their veteran’s lifestyle. After the training is complete, the dogs are placed with their veterans. The specific dogs have been kept a secret from the veteran and, on this day, both the veteran and the dog are introduced to their new best friends.
Pets for Vets has many chapters throughout the country. Madison, WI has a local chapter that works to serve the veterans of Wisconsin. I volunteer my time as a trainer for Pets for Vets – Madison, WI. The local chapter is looking to place two dogs with two veterans before the holiday season in the Madison area. Keep an eye out for their story this coming December.
Both the animals and the veterans have been through traumatic events in their lives, and together they can help each other heal. For more on how to get involved, please navigate to the Pets for Vets website: www.petsforvets.com