Oftentimes the people who suffer the most from Wars are the hero's who fight it for us. In most cases these heroes return home to the USA scarred for life by their war experiences, with some suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Whilst counseling and rehabilitation services are offered to these Vets, they do not always help.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
When Dave Sharpe returned home from Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq, he found himself struggling to deal with ordinary, everyday life because he was suffering from PTSD.
"I found myself waking up in the middle of the night, punching holes in walls, kicking and beating the refrigerator door," he said.
Sharpe accompanied a friend to a local pit bull rescue where he adopted a homeless pit bull puppy named Cheyenne. Together they were able to heal each other and the next time when Sharpe thought of punching the wall, he only had to look at Cheyenne to stop.
"I saw this puppy, cocking her head, looking up at me, like, what are you doing?"
It was then Sharpe realized that Cheyenne not only relied upon him to take care of her, but that she was also there to take care of him.
"I froze, I put down my drink, I picked her up and lay with her in my bed. I cried and I told her the whole story. I didn't feel judged;" he said.
Sharpe felt so inspired by how his dog, Cheyenne, helped him cope that he set out to start Pets2Vets, an non-profit organization that helps connect war veterans with homeless pets through adoption arrangements of shelter cats and dogs.
According to the PetsVets website, their mission is to:
To pair homeless pets with combat veterans, law enforcement/emergency personnel, and those affected by PTSD in order to:
* Help our nation's heroes and their families with rehabilitation through pet therapy
* Save sheltered pets from being euthanized by providing them with homes
* Raise public awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
A major objective of Pets2Vets is to help increase awareness of post traumatic stress disorder in returning war heroes. In fact, the US Army conducted a study recently in which they determined that one out of every eight soldiers returning from Iraq, had symptoms of PTSD.
Even though there a few private and governmental groups that are set up to help provide war veterans with service dogs, patients who have suffered a traumatic brain injury or who have been diagnosed with PTSD, do not qualify for these programs.
Sadly, even if they did qualify, most veterans are afraid to apply due to the public stigma attached to such psychological issues.
Making the Pet Connection
In order to create the perfect pet connection, war veterans, Firefighters, Law Enforcement Officer and their families are taken to their local animal shelter or rescue to be matched with a suitable pet
Once matched, a bonding process begins which enables the vets to spend quality time forging friendships with their chosen pet at the animal shelter or rescue. After which Pets2Vets will aide in transporting the new pet back to the vet's home anywhere in the USA.
Pets2Vets also purchases a starter kit for the new pet which includes bowls, collar, leash and a crate.
Any veteran from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Cold War, Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom and/or family members who are survived by a veteran may apply to Pets2Vets.
Also any firefighter, law enforcement officer, first responder, as well as the families of 9/11 may take part in Pets2Vets.
Furthermore, Pets2Vets works alongside vets who are inpatients in a hospital or rehabilitation program. Pets2Vets assists in matching a veteran with a pet at a local shelter and then transports the vet to the shelter to visit their new pet during their rehabilitation.
Photo Credit: Beverly & Pack