Monday, February 21, 2011
Last month, Linda Cole wrote about Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet, a wonderful organization that helps U.S. servicemen and women by providing temporary foster homes for their pets while they’re deployed overseas. Today I want to tell you about another important nonprofit organization that not only helps our military veterans, but countless shelter animals too! The Pets for Vets program brings together two wounded souls, so each can have a second chance at life.
Pets for Vets is a nonprofit organization created by 27-year old animal trainer Clarissa Black, in connection with local Veterans Affairs Hospitals. Their stated mission is “to heal wounds through friendship.” They do this by placing homeless shelter pets with veterans who need the special love and companionship an animal can provide. The Pets for Vets program is a way to give back to those who serve our country, while also giving shelter pets the opportunity to live in a loving forever home. It’s a win-win situation for humans and animals alike!
Many veterans suffer from physical and emotional injuries that make it hard for them to return to civilian life after military duty. As a result of their time in a war zone, many returning soldiers struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, addiction, nightmares, anxiety, anger management and other ailments. Pets for Vets believes that companion animals can provide the life-saving “therapy” these men and women so desperately need to turn their life around. In return, the veterans provide the pets with the friendship, affection and permanent home environment they deserve. In essence, together they help each other heal!
What makes the Pets for Vets program unique is the hands-on training the animals receive before being paired with a veteran. Clarissa Black, an animal lover since childhood, trained elephants and dolphins before deciding to become a professional dog trainer. In addition to training dog and cat “actors” to work in film and television, Black works with pet owners who need help with behavioral issues, basic and advanced obedience, and behaviors that facilitate relationship-building between dogs and their owners.
Pets for Vets is a Los Angeles-based charity, and any veteran in the southern California area with a condition that could benefit from having an animal companion is eligible to receive one from the charity. The veterans interview with the Pets for Vets team so they can determine what kind of pet would fit their needs and lifestyles. Once the perfect pet/veteran match is found, Black takes the animal to her home, where she trains it in basic obedience, socialization and behaviors it will need in order to live with the new owner. This might include becoming comfortable around wheelchairs and crutches, or important behaviors needed to help a veteran with brain injuries or PTSD.
Black’s training goal is to help ensure that the pet and vet are lifelong companions. Once the pet is fully trained and ready to go to his new home, Pets for Vets provides all of the necessary equipment for the veteran, such as food and water bowls, leashes, collars and crates. Although this program is currently only available to veterans in southern California, Black hopes to be able to expand the program to other areas soon.
If you’d like to help this worthwhile organization, there are several different ways to do so. You can make a tax-deductible monetary donation, or donate new or gently used items they need, including food bowls, dog toys, grooming supplies, towels and a good quality dry dog food that doesn’t contain wheat or corn, such as CANIDAE ALS (see their complete wish list here).
Pets for Vets also sells a variety of merchandise online, with all proceeds going to the charity. Items include T-shirts for people and dogs, hats, mugs, bumper stickers, tote bags, keychains and more. To learn more, visit the Pets for Vets website.
Read more articles by Julia Williams