Pets for Vets With PTSD get a Whole New “Leash” on Life
In honoring those who serve, both past and present, we thought you would be encouraged to hear of a program that brings returning veterans and animals in shelters together. From our recent articles on Adoption of Senior Pets and National Animial Shelter and Rescue Appreciation Week, you already know that many pets (especially Senior, black-furred and needful pets) languish for months and years before being adopted – if ever. Were you aware of the percentage of veterans that return home with PTSD? The statistics can be alarming –
Pets for Vets is a program Animal Trainer Clarissa Black created in 2009 as a way to say thank you to our nation’s heroes. This program softens the harsh realities of day-to-day living for veterans by pairing them up with animals that might be euthanized. Our friends at Pets for Vets explain their program:
Pets for Vets with PTSD is tailored to the needs, wants and hopes of each of our Veterans. We take the time to listen and find the animal that will bring the most support and comfort. While the majority of our skilled animal companions are dogs, we’ve also placed cats and even rabbits! We invite any U.S. Veteran who could benefit from having a skilled companion animal to apply.
A Bridge to a Better Life
Many brave troops return home with scars – both seen and unseen – that make it difficult to transition back to civilian life. At the same time, millions of wonderful companion animals wait in shelters for a forever home. Pets for Vets is the bridge that brings them together.
When a Veteran is matched with the right pet, both lives change for the better. The Veteran saves the animal and welcomes him/her into a loving home. The pet provides the Veteran with unconditional love and support, easing stress, depression, loneliness and anxiety. Together, they share a Super Bond™ that provides them both with a whole new “leash” on life.
The Super Bond™: An Unbreakable Connection
From the first moment a Veteran meets his or her skilled animal companion, there is an instant and unbreakable connection. The two are so in tune that the pet often instinctively knows how to help his/her Veteran – even without specific training.
This is thanks to the Pets for Vets with PTSD innovative program called the Super Bond™.
Using a tested, step-by-step approach, Pets for Vets trainers create the perfect match based on the personality, temperament, needs, wants and expectations of both the animal and the Veteran. The result is a deep connection like no other.
Helping Veterans One Lick at a Time
Because of their Super Bond™, Veterans and their animal companions improve each other’s lives in countless, remarkable ways.
- Strengthen Social Connections
- Increase Mental Well-Being
- Enhance Emotional Health
- Encourage Physical Fitness
- Ease Loneliness
- Improve Relationships
- Overcome Trauma
- Boost Confidence
- Raise Self-Esteem
- Gain a New Perspective
I used to sit at home, alone, and just let life pass me by, but now I have a reason to get up. Even if it’s feeding Samson, or taking him for walks, he has motivated me to live again.”
Pets and Vets: Life Is Better Together
When Pets for Vets with PTSD matches a Veteran with his/her new animal companion, something remarkable happens. They quickly form an unbreakable Super Bond™ –lifting each other up, protecting each other and building a better life together in a myriad of amazing ways.
Individuals with strong and rewarding social connections are happier, have fewer health problems and live longer than those who don’t. It can be tough for Veterans to make these important connections but Pets for Vets skilled animal companions motivate their owners to rejoin society and transition back into civilian life. Dogs are especially good at this. Just by going on daily walks, Veterans are more likely to meet and engage with others thanks to the built-in conversation starter of their four-legged sidekick.
Building a Safety Net
Pets never judge, instead, offering only unconditional love, support and a feeling of safety. For Veterans, the knowledge that their animal companion is always there for them can help reduce hyper-vigilance, depression, anxiety and nightmares. Pets can even help bring the Veteran back to the present during a flashback just by moving, barking or nudging with a paw. For the animals, having a routine and a human they trust gives them a sense of belonging and security they may have not had before.
Not only do Pets for Vets animal companions improve mental well-being, they can actually boost overall health. And Veterans do the same for them! When petting an animal, the hormone oxytocin is released into the brain of both the human and the animal, creating a sense of calm, regulating breathing, and lowering blood pressure and pulse rate. Health is further improved through shared physical activity such as walks, hikes, runs and playing games like fetch.
Saving Animal Lives
Each year in the U.S., over 6.5 million animals enter shelters and approximately 1.5 million are euthanized. All animals selected for the program are rescued from animal welfare organizations around the country. When a Veteran adopts a Pets for Vets companion animal, he or she can feel great knowing he/she is literally saving a life. Not only does the Veteran’s companion receive a second chance, the adoption opens up space in the shelter for another pet.
Transitioning to civilian life can be extremely difficult for many service men and women who have returned with physical and/or emotional injuries. By some estimates, as many as 20% of returning military veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Pets may also suffer from traumatic experiences such as abuse, being dumped on the streets or being surrendered to a noisy, frightening shelter. Both are looking for a way to start again and they find that in each other.
Gaining a New Perspective
Because of the Super Bond™ they share, Veterans begin to view themselves and the world the way their pet does. They see their best qualities reflected in their pet’s eyes, which boosts their self-esteem and confidence. Instead of feeling threatened by the outside world, their pet draws them into it and reminds them that life is full of joy and adventure. By observing how their pet appreciates every day and every moment, they learn to do the same. Once a Veteran opens his or her heart to a companion animal, it paves the way to opening themselves to others.
What an awesome way to help veterans and animals. There are numerous chapters of Pets for Vets. See the local page Pets For Vets. Maybe you could help by volunteering? You can read more about Applying to Adopt, the Super Bond Connection, Volunteering, Donating and more on the Pets for Vets website.
We hope you found this article informative about the plight of many returning veterans and how shelter/rescue animals have helped relieve veterans’ distress. Related articles that may interest you – Can You Change The World of One Animal? and Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet 4 Love.