Did you know that October 21st is National Pets for Veterans Day? This day is an opportunity to recognize the men and women who have served the country and raise awareness of the mental health benefits of providing veterans with pets to care for, as well as the benefits to rescued animals in need of a home.
When servicemen and women return home from overseas, transitioning back into civilian life may be tough. Some veterans return home with physical scars. For others, mental and emotional trauma is more pronounced. Service changes all veterans, and it can be important to recognize the changes that may not be visible at first glance.
The companionship of an animal has been proven to aid veterans by providing social and emotional support in the way that other people often struggle to do, and often only an animal can. That is why the Vets for Pets program was started. Animals in the program also benefit from finding a forever home and companionship with a new owner.
Any veteran who lives in a Vets for Pets chapter area and can care for a pet is eligible to apply. When the program receives an application, trainers get to know the veteran better and ascertain the veteran’s needs, lifestyle, and expectations for a pet. Trainers then look for a pet whose temperament matches that of the veteran. Typically, animal companions are dogs, but sometimes cats may be better suited for a particular veteran.
After an animal companion is matched with a veteran, the animal spends time living with a trainer who goes through basic obedience training, and any extra training that may be necessary, depending on the needs of the intended veteran companion. The animal may need to become comfortable with crutches, wheelchairs, or a synthetic limb. They may also learn to recognize behaviors related to a panic or anxiety disorder, or like a medical animal companion, to know if a veteran is having a seizure or another episode.
For more information on the Vets for Pets program and other community resources supporting veterans contact us, our office is here to help.