Pets For Patriots Blog Veterans With Pets Thu, 30 Jul 2015 13:19:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Navy veteran helps dog go from chained to cherished Mon, 27 Jul 2015 19:57:34 +0000 A chained life is no life

The plights of chained and tethered dogs are often overlooked because people fail to recognize them as potential cases of animal cruelty. In truth, these practices can lead to severe psychological and physical damage and, in some cases, death.

Thanks to the actions of many, including a Navy veteran who joined Pets for Patriots with the intent of adopting a companion, a once-chained dog in Virginia was saved from her cruel existence. Leia (Conor) beore rescue

Now a cherished member of the family, the Australian Shepherd mix is learning for the first time what is means to be free and to be loved.

It took a village

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) receives plenty of well-earned criticism for the high kill rates at its Norfolk, Virginia shelter, as well as for other aspects of its animal activism. Lost is the fact that their rescue team saves many animals from heinous abuse, some of whom are transferred to other shelters for adoption.

In fact, a dog named Athena owes her life to PETA.

When Athena was found in her owner’s yard one of her legs had become so entangled in her chain that it was swollen and infected; she was unable to bear weight on it at all. Even more dire, the dog had a life-threatening body temperature of 106 degrees when she was found in the blazing summer sun, and no way to reach her water.

Thankfully Athena’s negligent owners agreed to surrender her to PETA, whose rescue team took her to a veterinarian where she received urgent treatment and some good news: the once-chained dog’s leg was not broken. Athena was treated, her temperature safely brought back to normal, and she was transferred to our partners at the Virginia Beach SPCA (VBSPCA), who agreed to take the adult dog and place her for adoption.

A gift from above

Just two days after he was approved into our program, Conor adopted Athena. Conor and Leia_square_love

Currently serving in the Navy, Conor probably would not have recognized his new pet friend had he seen pictures of her chained and rotting in the hot sun. The Navy veteran renamed her Leia, which means “child of heaven” or “heavenly flowers.”

Leia is the name of the princess in the iconic Star Wars films, as well, so we like to think her name means “heavenly princess.”

Conor and Leia are together just a few weeks at the time of this writing, and we hope to have an update once they have had more time to bond. For now, we are grateful to all who played a part in giving a chained dog her freedom, and the dignity intended for all living creatures.

Learn more about our life-saving work and how you make it possible.

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Loss bonds grieving Army veteran and senior shelter cat Mon, 20 Jul 2015 18:28:56 +0000 Jonathan can easily pinpoint the most difficult moment of his life: watching his 12 year-old cat Ziggy pass away in his arms. Despite his loss, the Army veteran was unwilling to let grief consume him. He made a decision to honor Ziggy’s life by opening his heart to a senior shelter cat – a tortoiseshell beauty named Tessa.

Army strong

Jonathan joined the Army Reserves in February of 2005 in order to become an x-ray technologist. After undergoing Basic Training in Fort Knox, Kentucky, he completed his Advanced Individual Training (AIT) while serving at Fort Sam Houston, Texas and Fort Stewart, Georgia. Jonathan and Tessa on floor_square

“I finished my last leg of service here in Tampa Bay before I was honorably discharged in late 2007,” he says, “due to a leg injury that started back in AIT.” 

The Army veteran has a more positive memory of his time in service than the career-ending injury he sustained.

“My favorite memorable experience from my time in service was receiving the General Abrams in Basic Training,” he recalls. “To achieve this award, I had to be selected by my platoon to represent them in a board with three other soldiers from the company who represented their platoons. Because I was selected for the award, I received an Army Achievement Medal and read a speech during the graduation. I kept it a secret from my family in order to surprise them when they arrived for the ceremony.”

Jonathan is still a licensed x-ray technologist and currently works for a healthcare company that handles the business side of hospitals’ revenue cycles. When not at work, he has little trouble filling his time with three seemingly diverse activities.

“My favorite things to do are make meals in my slow cooker, watch hockey and read comics,” he says.

To have loved and lost

Jonathan wanted to pay tribute to Ziggy following his beloved companion’s death. He thought that enhancing the lives of less fortunate cats would be a fitting way to honor Ziggy’s life. 

“I donated some of his things to the shelter,” he says. “I felt a sense of pride being able to share a part of him with others, knowing that the toys, supplies, food, etc., would go to good use.” Tessa (Jonathan) with toy_square

Despite taking this selfless act of giving, Jonathan began to wonder if there was something else he could do to celebrate Ziggy and the life they shared together. It was in that moment that the Army veteran decided to adopt another companion pet.

“What better way to honor Ziggy’s life than to provide a home for another cat?”

As a result of raising Ziggy, Jonathan knew that an older cat would require less training than a kitten – and would give an animal who had few prospects for adoption a second chance at life. Sadly, older dogs and cats are among the least desired by most adopters, even as they make wonderful companions.

“I knew she was the one”

For all these reasons, Jonathan was transfixed on the profile of a particular eight year-old cat he saw on the Humane Society of Tampa Bay’s website.

“It stated she was brought to the shelter after her previous owners could no longer care for her,” he recalls. “She is an older cat, which may not be desirable for some adopters.”  

Although they had never met, the connection Jonathan felt with Tessa, simply upon reading her story and seeing her picture, was immediate. Like Jonathan, Tessa was no stranger to loss. She was alone in an unfamiliar place and separated from the only family she likely had ever known.

“From the first time I saw Tessa’s profile online, I felt a connection. Before I adopted her, I went to the shelter to visit some of the cats there. Tessa was the first one I saw, and although I met others, I knew she was the one,” Jonathan remembers.

The Army veteran soon learned that the Humane Society of Tampa Bay is a participating adoption and veterinary partner of Pets for Patriots, a nationally operating charity that provides various financial incentives for military veterans to adopt the most overlooked companion pets – including adults like Tessa. In addition to the benefits that Pets for Patriots provides, the shelter waives pet adoption fees for the charity’s member veterans and extends an ongoing 10% discount at its full-service Animal Health Center.

“I chose Pets for Patriots after seeing a link posted on the Humane Society of Tampa’s website,” Jonathan says, “and reading about the organization’s mission.”

The Army veteran’s initial good deed of donating many of Ziggy’s belongings led to an even greater act of saving the life of an older cat whose adoption prospects were bleak.

“I was hooked on that positive feeling,” he says, “so I took it a step further and adopted Tessa.”

Sharing the love

Tessa is her own cat with her own unique personality, but in many meaningful ways she is following in the paw prints of her predecessor.

“When I brought her home…she picked a toy from the group that I placed out for her. It was the last toy I had bought for Ziggy,” Jonathan says, adding, “She loves it! That first night, she hopped up on the bed and laid next to me the entire night, just like Ziggy would. It was meant to be.” Tessa (Jonathan) holding hands_square

Jonathan is quick to point out that while Tessa has filled a place in his heart that felt empty after Ziggy’s death, the memory of his beloved friend is very much alive.

“I miss Ziggy every day,” Jonathan admits. “He was with me since he was a kitten and until he passed in my arms. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.”

By adopting Tessa, Jonathan has undoubtedly changed the older cat’s life for the better, but he is quick to share that she has had just as powerful an impact on his life as well.

“Tessa helps me continue to share that love,” he says. “Because of her, I wake up in the morning with a positive attitude. She needs me and I need her. I know Ziggy wouldn’t want me to be alone.”

How do you honor the memory of beloved pets who have died?

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Marine veteran and adopted cat thrive on chaos Mon, 13 Jul 2015 19:04:42 +0000 Charles is a Marine Corps veteran who served from 2001-2010, during which time he was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Honorably discharged as Sergeant, he shares his story about an adopted cat who loves, and helps create, chaos in his multi-pet home.

We appreciate our partnership with Macon County Animal Control and Care Center for their help in making this Marine family complete.

Send in the…cats?

Pets for Patriots has added a new member to our family and genuinely brought a fair amount of joy to our everyday lives.

First I need to admit that I was never a fan of catsThey’re arrogant, self-centered and egotistical, they don’t move out of the way, they only come around when they want you to pet them and they pretty much exist to cause havoc in your home. 

Then it occurred to me that there is an incredible similarity between cats and Marines. We’re arrogant, self-centered, and egotistical, we will never move out of anyone’s way for any reason, we only come around when we feel we need attention and we exist to cause havoc – everywhere. 

That alone wasn’t the reason I wanted to adopt Quill. Charles, family and Quill

When we first started looking, I didn’t know about Pets for Patriots. My wife had expressed an interest in getting another pet, preferably a cat. We currently have two dogs: a German Shepherd mix named Kota (female), and a pug named Odin (male). 

Odin has a little man complex. Kota is a trained professional, all business, no fooling around. 

We looked at several cats. All were very sociable, extremely friendly to my daughter and wife, and myself. Quill was friendly to my wife and daughter, but his first “go” with me was kinetic. He likes to play. That is what I was looking for in a cat. One that wants to engage as much as be engaged. 

Quill makes our family whole. He and our dogs get along perfectly. At times he will sit at the top of the basement stairs and wait for Odin to come up, as soon as Odin rounds the corner Quill is on top of him, takes him to the ground and then it’s on! Running around the dining room table, shooting through the living room over the couch and then back toward the kitchen.

Kota and Quill are the same way. Kota waits like a sentry for her next command. She’s been trained as a personal protection dog for our daughter. Her “play” time is a sort of hide and seek with our daughter. Our daughter will hide around the house or in the yard, and on the command “seek” Kota will find her. 

Quill follows; I think he likes the excitement my daughter exhibits at being found by Kota. Like I said – we all get along extremely well.

Marine veteran makes command decision to adopt, not shop

Our adopting experience was very easy and pleasant. 

A friend of mine at work knew I was looking for a cat. She had actually showed me several cats around the area that were for sale. While she was showing me the cats she asked if I had considered adopting. I hadn’t thought of it – then she said she knew someone who had used Pets for Patriots. From there I went to the website and checked them out. 

The rest was easy. 

We went in, I informed the staff at the Macon County Animal Shelter that I was a veteran and that I would l like to use Pets for Patriots to assist in the adoption. They knew exactly what to do and how to speed the adoption along. I had already gone online to fill out the quick paperwork with Pets for Patriots, I handed that to the Macon County Staff and then we went about finding a match. 

Long boring story short, we found Quill. 

He is a great cat, arrogant, egotistical, and just the right amount of “aggressive” to fit extremely well in our family. I want to thank you all for creating Pets For Patriots, it means very much to me and my family. 


Charles (Sgt. USMC 2001-2010)

 Read how companion pets help children cope with the stresses of military life.

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Anchors aweigh! Navy family gives new leash on life to two senior dogs Mon, 06 Jul 2015 19:27:17 +0000 Despite the many advantages of adopting older and senior pets, the odds are still stacked against more mature shelter animals. Yet for one lucky 12 year-old dog named Sox, his ship came in when he was adopted by a Navy family to keep company with their other senior dog.Terry and Sox

Old dogs, old friends

Terry always dreamed about serving in the military, and in 2009 he made that dream a reality when he enlisted in the Navy. Initially stationed in Florida, he moved with his family to Virginia Beach for Permanent Change of Station (PCS), where he lives with his wife, Jessie, their four year-old son, Orion, and a 13 year-old black Lab/Husky mix named Frisbee.

The Navy veteran experienced firsthand how companion pets help military families, particularly children, deal with the inevitable stresses of military life. And in time he came to understand that the human members of the family were not the only ones who benefit from having pets at home.

“We had two dogs for many years and a couple of years go we lost our older of the pair,” Terry says. “Frisbee was on his own for the first time in his life.”

After the death of their eldest dog, the couple realized that Frisbee would benefit from another pet friend.

“We felt that he needed a companion, another dog to keep him company,” the Navy veteran explains. “Knowing that we didn’t want a puppy for our senior dog, we knew going in that we wanted to give a second chance to another senior dog.” Sox (Terry) and Frisbee

The benefits of community

Once Terry and his wife made the decision to adopt another dog they visited the Virginia Beach SPCA, where they learned about the shelter’s partnership with Pets for Patriots.

In exchange for adopting an overlooked pet – one that is adult, special needs or a large breed dog – veterans receive various benefits to reduce the lifetime costs associated with pet parenthood, including a generous contribution towards ‘welcome home’ pet food, supplies and other essentials. The Virginia Beach SPCA offers Pets for Patriots members a 10% adoption fee discount and access to their low-cost, full-service veterinary clinic without demonstrating proof of income.

While Terry appreciates the “many benefits of using their service,” there were more compelling reasons for him to adopt through Pets for Patriots.

“Mostly because it is a community of military members with a common goal, to find their new best friend and given them a second chance at life.”

Two strikes, you’re in

Sox was a 12 year-old Pomeranian mix who – like all companion pets in shelters – found herself homeless through no fault of her own. With two strikes against her – older and with black fur – her prospects for adoption were slim to none. Little did the 14-pound shelter dog know that there was a Navy family looking for a dog who would complement their resident dog in age, temperament and lifestyle.

“Sox has been the best addition to our family,” Terry says. “She has so much life for being 12 and she fits right in with our other dog. The two of them are so fun together.” Sox (Terry) Christmas 2014_enhanced

The senior dog’s adoption reveals a misconception about older pets: that they cannot adapt to new situations, people or other pets, and that they have little left to give. In reality, senior pets are often the most grateful for being saved, and the compassion of people who adopt them is rewarded many times over.

“We just love how playful she is and how she loves her new best dog friend,” the Navy veteran says. “She loves to lay snuggled on the couch with us to watch movies or go for a walk around the neighborhood with the family.”

Frisbee – the resident senior dog – is adapting to his “new” old companion as well.

“I think they are starting to learn that they are both here to stay,” Terry observes, adding that, “Our family is so happy that we have found Sox, and that she has become part of our family. She has brought joy and laughter to us, and we couldn’t imagine our family without her.”

Have you known the joys of senior pet adoption?

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Pit Bull dog in shelter for more than 450 days til Army war veteran brings him home Mon, 29 Jun 2015 19:34:40 +0000 A Pit Bull dog who spent more than 450 days in a shelter, more than half of his life, is rescued by an Army war veteran coping with PTSD who found purpose in companion pets despite not being sure he was ready to care for them.

Go ahead, kid; make my day

Patrick enlisted in the Army to follow in the footsteps of his stepfather, uncle and grandfathers.

“They served their country and I couldn’t think of a better way to honor their service than to sign up myself,” he says. “I can drive a variety of vehicles and was assigned to a postal unit overseas. I transported incoming mail throughout theater and picked up outgoing mail to be processed and sent out.”

In the course of multiple deployments, including to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, one particular experience stands out among the rest. Patrick and Oliver

“There was a point in one of our routes where we got hit pretty hard. It was utter chaos, a mess of sound and dust and no one had any idea of what was going on,” Patrick recalls. “All I could do was hit the accelerator and keep going, and follow the guy in front of me as we were getting hit left and right.”

Patrick’s experience highlights the fact that even soldiers not designated as combat personnel often work in areas where they are in imminent danger, and risk their lives to serve.

“The thought going through my mind initially was telling my folks goodbye and that I loved them,” he says. “I remember feeling very calm and very certain that if it was time to go I’d go full tilt and with my head held high. Luckily we made it and I was able to come home and tell them how much they mean to me.”

The Army veteran had another very memorable experience during his years of service, albeit a much less terrifying one.

“I remember coming home on leave and not having enough time to change into my civvies until I got to where I was headed,” Patrick says. “I had a rental car and stopped for gas, as I headed inside I noticed a group of teenagers milling about the entrance. It was pretty late and I wasn’t sure what these kids were doing out, they were skateboarding and having a good time joking with each other.”

Then, something unexpected happened.

“When I came into view they stopped to look, and one of them hopped up and opened the door for me,” he shares. “I said, ‘thanks,’ and he nodded and said, ‘thanks for your service.’ It was such a little thing, but I’ll remember that until the day I die. I was tired from my trip and ready to get home, and this kid just absolutely made my day.”

Of  PTSD, companion pets and a sense of purpose

After spending much of his tours of duty overseas Patrick was ready to come home. He made a major move to be near those he loves dearly.

“My wife and I bought a home in Central Illinois, and we brought our dog Pandora and three cats – Alice, Amelia and Blink – all the way from Pennsylvania to start a brand new adventure,” he says. “It’s my hometown and we came here so I could be closer to my family.” Patrick and Oliver

Patrick admits that when his wife first discussed getting another dog he thought it was a responsibility that he could not handle. He struggled to transition to civilian life after enduring the chaos and fear of serving in multiple war zones.

“I know that it’s been difficult for me at times,” he shares. “I’ve struggled with a lot of things after getting home, including PTSD, a handful of cognitive issues and substance abuse. Sharing my life with my pets has made it 110% better. Not going to lie, I spent a lot of time getting out of hand when I left the service. Felt like I had no purpose.”

Because of his struggles, the Army veteran was less than enthusiastic about the prospects of adding another dog to his family.

“When my wife mentioned getting a dog I initially thought ‘Oh boy, here we go. We have no business getting a dog.’ I am reminded of this constantly and I’ve never been happier to have been wrong in my entire life,” he says. “My pets enrich my life in so many ways, their friendship, the joy they bring to me, my life was changed for the better when we brought them into our family.”

For the love of dogs and cats

Patrick knows that pet overpopulation is a problem.

“I feel that it falls on each and every one of us to reach out and open our homes to those in need,” he says. 

All of the companion pets that Patrick and his wife have acquired are giving him a sense of purpose he thought long lost after he left the Army. They were all later joined by Super Guy, a kitty that just showed up at Patrick’s home one day. The Army veteran is so committed to companion pet adoption that he started volunteering at his local animal shelter, Macon County Animal Control and Care Center.

While there, the Army veteran met a much overlooked Pit Bull dog who had been in the shelter for nearly half of his life, and learned about the shelter’s partnership with Pets for Patriots. We help veterans and active duty service members adopt a companion dog or cat for mutual friendship, love and healing, and focus on those most challenged to find homes for reasons of age, size, medical condition or special needs. 

“I had been there for a few weeks when I learned about Pets for Patriots and, again, was pretty certain that we were loaded for bear with Pandora and four cats,” says Patrick. “Little did I know that Oliver was waiting patiently for us.”

Patrick admits that by the time he met Oliver, named Travis at the shelter, he was more open to the idea of adopting another pet. But it would have to be one very special pet.

“I felt that if I was going to get another dog I would want a dog that was having some trouble finding a forever home, for whatever reason,” Patrick explains. “Travis fit the bill. He’s a black Pit Bull who had been there for almost a year and a half. I felt like this was the universe telling me, ‘Hey, this program is MADE for you. You can definitely help out one more and make the most of this.’” Oliver in car

To make sure that Oliver would be a good addition to their family, Patrick and his wife fostered him through the Macon County Animal Control and Care Center’s ‘home for the holidays’ program, which gives sheltered animals a reprieve during the Christmas season.

Fostering sealed the deal.

“A few weeks later we made it official, Oliver was home!” “Patrick exclaims. “We got him in November and I really can’t imagine life without him. Oliver is wonderful, we love him and he’s made this family complete.”

From unwanted to beloved

After spending more than 450 days in a shelter, Oliver understandably needed time to adjust to his new and wonderful life.

“I love his personality,” Patrick says. “Being cooped up in a kennel for most of your life only to turn around and have the run of a house and a big yard must have been pretty intimidating. But it didn’t take long for his confidence to grow and his personality to shine through once he realized that, yep, this is HOME and he wasn’t going anywhere.” 

Oliver is very respectful of his four-legged siblings, loves to “get his snuggle on” with Pandora and the cats, and listens very well to Patrick. But what he loves to do most is sleep on the bed with his mom and dad, earning him the nickname “Velcro dog.”

“He’s a snuggler, there is nothing he likes better than to head upstairs when it’s bedtime,” says Patrick. “Best feeling in the world to see him zonked out and sleeping peacefully.”

No better welcome home

Patricks admits that Pets for Patriots made the decision to adopt Oliver an easier one. The application process was simple, and the benefits and post-adoption support made a big difference.

“It’s is a fantastic organization that helped us so much,” he says. “I was on the fence about adopting another dog, but they made it a seamless process.”

The biggest reward, however, is the greeting Patrick receives from his new pet friend. Oliver and Super Guy

“There is nothing quite like coming home and having Oliver get super excited and happy to see me, it’s something I look forward to all day,” he says. “It could be a long day or an overwhelming memory, but the thought of your best friend waiting for you at home makes it easier to smile, makes you confident you can handle your troubles, gives you a new purpose.”

Patrick believes that while veterans’ experiences during their time in service varies – where they have been, what they have seen and endured –  having a companion pet always seems to make life better. 

Having Pandora and Oliver in my life gives me so much. I cannot describe how much my life is enriched because I have these two goofballs,” the Army veteran says. “They’re my best friends and I’m eternally grateful to have them in my life. I have a lot of great reasons to keep myself squared away, they need me and I need them. Cannot recommend this [program] enough.”

In the end, it does not matter who was more in need. The overlooked homeless dog who lived for more than 450 days in a shelter, waiting for his hero, or the Army veteran coping with PTSD and and other challenges as he adjusts to life after military service. Each needed – and saved – the other.

“There‘s so much in the world that can drag me down,” Patrick says. “Oliver and Pandora and the rest bring me back up.”

Click here to learn more about why you should adopt your next pet!

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Little rescue dog gives Vietnam veteran “a reason to live” Tue, 23 Jun 2015 13:08:34 +0000 Scooby is a little rescue dog with big paws to fill: curing the aching heart of a Vietnam veteran following the death of his senior dog. Scooby

For his entire life, Andrew has been a natural caretaker. He ministered to both of his parents during their final years, but after his 12 year-old Labradoodle died he did not think that he could care for another dog. Yet in time he was not just alone, but lonely – and knew that a companion pet would change his world for the better. 

A man of peace during a time of war

In 1962, Andrew enlisted in the U.S. Army and he served for three years as a chaplain’s assistant.

“My boot camp was at Fort Knox and the rest of my tour was at [Fort] Dix,” he recalls. “My tour was an uneventful time, as not much happened.”

The day President Kennedy was assassinated, however, was uniquely memorable. 

“I would say the one scary time was when President Kennedy got shot and the Fort was put on lockdown,” Andrew says, “and everyone had to carry their firearm or rifle with them at all times.” 

In 1965, Andrew left the Army with an honorable discharge, but there was uncertainty about whether he would be reactivated.

“I knew they were starting to send troops over to Vietnam,” he remembers.  “I heard that they could freeze discharges so they would have enough troops to protect the country and still send some overseas…I was keeping my fingers crossed and saying a lot of prayers.”

It seems that the young veteran’s prayers were answered; he was never pressed back into military service.

Life after wartime

Now in his early 70’s, Andrew spends his days enjoying his many hobbies. 

“I have been retired for 10 years and it went by fast,” he says. “I like to putter around in the yard. I have a large flower bed that I am currently fighting with the weeds, so I can plant some flowers. I like to watch sports on television, mostly baseball.” Andrew and Scooby

Regardless of the season, Andrew stays busy and maintains an active social life.

“I currently bowl in two leagues in the winter and one in the summer,” he says. “I also am the secretary for all three bowling leagues, so that keeps me busy. I also like to take the car out and just enjoy driving around.”

Oh, to have loved and lost

Andrew is familiar with the bittersweet nature of love and loss.

“I have always taken care of someone in my life. I took care of myself until my dad got sick, then I helped my mom take care of him.” he explains. “When he passed on, I stuck around and took care of my mother till she passed on. Then I took care of my dog and when he passed on I didn’t want to get another [dog], as I was getting older.”

 The Army veteran has fond memories of the four-legged best friend he lost to cancer.

“I had bought a Labradoodle and it was the best dog I ever had,” Andrew says. “[He] was friendly, hardly barked, and learned fast. I had him for 10 years. I had trained him to be a therapy dog and we visited a few nursing homes for a while, ’til he got cancer. Then I stopped going.”

Andrew’s dog received chemotherapy for two years and while the cancer went into remission, the dog’s back legs “just gave out.”

“I couldn’t see him suffering,” he says, “so I had to put him to sleep.”

The incredible pain of losing his beloved dog soured the Vietnam veteran on getting another pet; he vowed that he “didn’t want to go through it again.” Yet eventually Andrew was struck by a deep sense of loneliness. Sometimes it showed itself in little ways, like how he noticed that he was “watching too much television.”

“I was kind of lonely in the house,” he shares, “and so I started to try to adopt a rescue dog. I figured I wanted to give a rescue dog the best life he could ever get, cause I do spoil dogs a lot.” Andew and Scooby Mem Day_square

Andrew chose to adopt through Paws and Prayers in Akron, Ohio, a rescue organization comprised of a volunteer network of foster homes that shelter pets until they can be adopted. While in a home environment, the dogs receive socialization, all necessary medical care and the warm embrace of a person or family who promises to care for them until they have a permanent home of their own.

While there were a few dogs that interested Andrew, most were not well-suited to a senior living alone.

“I filled out a lot of adoption [applications], but the dogs always went to families,” he says, “so I was going to give up ’til spring time.”

Then out of the blue the rescue emailed Andrew; they thought they had the perfect dog for him: a four year-old Mini Pinscher

“Along came Scooby,” he says, “the complete opposite of the dog I just had, but he is a good dog and buddy and friend.”

The ties that bind

It was the rescue that told Andrew about their partnership with Pets for Patriots. Once Andrew joined he was able to receive a 50% adoption fee discount for Scooby, and Pets for Patriots provided a generous pet store gift card to help the Vietnam veteran buy whatever he needed for his new companion dog – in addition to a range of other cost-saving benefits.

Most of all, Andrew believes that Pets for Patriots helps cement the bond between a pet and his – or her – adopter. 

“It’s a good organization and they do a lot of checking, making sure everything is going good between you and your new friend,” he says. “If you have problems with your adopted animal, they will work with you.”

The Vietnam veteran and little rescue dog had a relatively uneventful adjustment period. For his part, Scooby gives Andrew something that had been missing since the death of his Labradoodle.

“He has made me feel needed,” Andrew says. “I just hope I can live longer than Scooby so I can give him the best life a dog could ever have, and when he passes on he can brag in heaven.”

“A reason to live”

The Army veteran has gone from watching too much television to having an enthusiastic partner who wants to go with him everywhere. The pair even rode in Andrew’s PT Cruiser in his town’s Memorial Day parade.

“The thing I love best about him is he loves car rides, and I love to take him for rides or wherever I go,” says Andrew. “If the garage door is open and I let him out, he runs right to the passenger car door and sits there.” Scooby looking out window_square

Even Scooby’s occasional slobber isn’t a problem.

“I don’t mind that he messes up the windows and messes up the back,” he says, “or jumps in the front passenger seat and tries to get into my lap.”

The little dog is a big hit in the community, too.

“The neighbors all like him and the neighbor’s dog likes him too,” Andrew observes, adding, “although he keeps eyeing the rabbits next door.”

In the end a little adult rescue dog named Scooby got a person of his own, and a Vietnam veteran mourning the loss of a trusted friend is lonely no more. Every adoption truly saves two lives.

“I am happy I adopted Scooby, we might have been made for each other,” Andrew says. “We both like to curl up on a nice chair, with a blanket and snooze…he is my friend and buddy.”

Yet Andrew suspects that his adopted dog has an even more noble purpose.

“He gives me a reason to live and take care of myself, so I could take care of him.”

How does your pet give your life new meaning?

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All in the family: dogs and children Mon, 15 Jun 2015 20:55:45 +0000 Great tips to help dogs and children live in harmony from dog training expert, pet behaviorist, media personality and Pets for Patriots Board member, Andrea Arden.

There are so many benefits to children growing up with dogs as part of the family. Most importantly, they can help children learn about how to develop a friendship based on mutual consideration and respect. In order for children and dogs to develop a respectful, cooperative, safe, and fun relationship, proper supervision and guidance for both the children and the dog need to be employed. 

Of course, dogs can also help children learn a better sense of responsibility and care giving. However, keep in mind that when you get a dog or any other pet, children can and should certainly help care for them, but the primary caregiver is always the adults in the family. It is unfair to an animal to place their welfare in the hands of a child who is expected to feed, walk and water them on a consistent basis.

Photo credit: Seth Casteel

Photo credit: Seth Casteel

Choose wisely

If you are still in the process of choosing a dog for your family, you have the benefit of being able to choose a dog who has the best possible chance of living harmoniously with children because you can choose a dog who has the appropriate temperament, and you can dedicate the time to instill good manners and sociability from the start. 

Too many people run out and get the first dog they see that is cute. In fact, it seems people spend more time choosing their cars, which ‘live’ in their garage for five or so years, than they do choosing a companion dog, who will live in the home and be part of the family for up to 15 years or more. Making an educated choice is very important to ensure everyone’s safety and happiness. Some dogs are more or less physically and temperamentally suited to share their lives with children. For example, very small dogs may be more fragile and susceptible to injury due to handling that is unsafe – such as being picked up and potentially dropped.

We all know kids can tire us out and it is no different for pets. Children make erratic movements, loud noises and produce lots of activity. Some dogs are better suited temperamentally to handle the rigors of life with children. You should look for a dog that is not highly sound sensitive, or highly aroused with fast movements, and a dog that enjoys handling, as children tend to be very tactile with animals. Boy and spaniel

Please note that an all too common myth is that certain breeds of dogs are inherently sure to be good with children.  While it is true that some breeds are more likely to do well with kids, there is no guarantee. Within each breed and mix of breeds there are a variety of temperaments. When you choose a dog, you should be choosing based on many things, including the breed or mix, size, and most importantly, the individual dog’s temperament. If you can meet one or both of the dog’s parents, their temperaments should also be carefully assessed.

Adult supervision

This does not mean that just because a dog has a lovely, tolerant temperament, that children should be permitted to take advantage of that. Children should always be carefully supervised with all animals, and they should be provided with ongoing guidance in regards to their behavior and what is appropriate. 

It’s important that your guidance be focused on both dog and child. Both need to do some learning and adjusting and it would be unfair to think it is all up to the dog.

Children should never be allowed to climb on a dog, to take valued objects away from them, to pester them when they are resting, to poke, pull, or otherwise physically harass them, or to reprimand them. Dogs are not toys and children should be expected to treat them with respect. If you want your dog to feel safe, secure and happy living with children, then you need to set up an environment and house rules that support this.

Guidance for mannerly behavior

In addition to careful supervision at all times, children and dogs should learn to enjoy interactions with each other that are fun for both, with the added benefit of helping to develop manners that go both ways. Positive reinforcement training is advised for all dogs, and is especially important with dogs that are expected to have safe, happy relationships with children. Mother and daughters in park with dog smiling

Positive training is so easy that even young, supervised children can take part in the fun.

Imagine a child using a food lure to get their dog to sit, or lie down. Or imagine the family practicing hand targeting together, so that the dog is running between people to touch their nose to each person’s hand and then earning a reward. 

These games are about manners, but also about developing a relationship whereby the dog happily and willingly complies with a child’s polite requests to do things. This is a wonderful foundation for a friendship whereby the dog learns that children are safe, kind, fun, and rewarding, and the child learns that it is fun to interact with their dog in a manner that best ensures a healthy relationship.

Create a resting spot for your dog

In addition to adult supervision and positive training, you should provide your dog with a rest area where they can rest without being disturbed by the children. This safe zone is a place where your dog can rest assured they can get away from it all when quiet time is needed. This can be a room in your home, or a crate.

In either case, be sure to teach your kids that they should not disturb the dog when resting. 

Dog at rest

New baby

If you are bringing a baby home you can start helping your dog to develop positive feelings about this new, little family member by having the baby resting nearby or in a baby pouch while you play training games with the dog. This way your dog will begin to associate the presence of the baby with good things and mannerly behavior.

Remember, babies look, smell, sound and move differently than us. Your dog may not know what to make of this and needs to learn to become comfortable by association with things he loves. Additionally, parents are understandably exhausted in the first months a new baby is home and it can be a challenge to find the time to provide the family dog with the attention and exercise they need. But, this is a must. Lack of either can result in an increase in behavior problems.

Consider enriching your dog’s environment by providing food puzzle toys which can be used to feed your dog so they ‘hunt’ for their food and burn off mental and physical energy. If necessary, and appropriate for the individual dog’s temperament, employing the assistance of family members and friends to help provide for the care of the family dog should also be considered.


If you have toddlers or preschoolers, consider that this can be the most difficult age group to work with in regards to teaching safe interactions with dogs.

The typical toddler is all over the place, covered in food, and screaming and running. Toddlers tend to be unstable, and may fall on your dog, and most toddlers test boundaries by pulling, poking and squeezing. Children at this age often have not yet developed good impulse control or awareness of boundaries.

It’s important to make sure that your children do not overstep your dog’s social boundaries, such as putting their face right into the dog’s face.  While many people find this charming, many dogs do not. This is tough on even the sweetest dogs.

It is important to teach young children nice ways to interact with and play with dogs such as gentle touching and offering food to get the dog to sit and lie down. At this young age your children can sit on your lap and help you hand feed your dog. This will not only help your dog, but this is a great opportunity for your child to practice their developing impulse control and focusing skills. Each piece of food is like a deposit in the bank for building a loving, respectful relationship.


By the time your child is five-to-eight years old they can start to assist you in the dog’s care in a greater capacity. This is an age where participation in a training class can be especially beneficial as an opportunity for a self-esteem boost as they master more advanced training skills.

Addressing Issues

If your dog is showing signs of concern around children in the family by consistently moving away from the kids, stiffening at their approach, lifting their lips or even growling, you should immediately contact a professional trainer who uses a positive, science-based approach. dog fear of kids

They will advise you to be careful to avoid correcting your dog with verbal or physical reprimands. While this may seem to be an approach that will teach your dog not to aggress, it may in fact escalate the existing issues. Your dog is expressing stress and concern around the kids, and being punished for this is not only unkind, but may also result in your dog feeling even more stressed, as he or she will associate the children with you punishing them. As a result, your dog’s aggressive displays may increase in frequency in order to keep the children away and to avoid being punished when they are around.

Instead, your trainer will advise you to employ careful management to prevent incidences, and for you to make a concerted effort to drastically change your dog’s perception of the children by having them become the source of the things your dog wants (for example, food and toys), as well as calm, positive interactions through training.

Have questions about pet training? See all of our articles from Board Member and renowned trainer and behaviorist Andrea Arden.

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Marine veteran gives love and stability to unwanted dog Tue, 09 Jun 2015 12:29:42 +0000 Too many animals find themselves abandoned, rejected and discarded at shelters and rescues across the country. When one Marine veteran decided it was time to add a four-legged member to the family, his first thought was to save a life and adopt a dogAnthony and Pricilla

As it turns out, that dog was one who others had adopted and surrendered on more than one occasion. Priscilla seemed to be the dog nobody wanted.

Military as the path to a better life

Patriotism and hopes for a brighter future inspired Anthony to join the military. In 1995 he enlisted in the Marine Corps and served for four years, and remembers the many reasons that motivated him to enlist.

“Having an immense sense of pride, I enlisted to serve my country,” he says. “I also wanted to get away from the troubled area I lived in, to attain experience in the profession I wanted to ultimately be in and to earn money for college.”

Part of Anthony’s plan was to gain valuable experience in law enforcement. He served as a Military Police Officer with the Special Reaction Team and, with the exception of a one-year deployment to Okinawa, Japan, he served the majority of his time in Quantico, Virginia. Since Anthony was working as a first responder every day brought the prospect of something new and fun, including the day he delivered a baby.

Despite his many experiences in service, boot camp remains one of the most memorable times of his military career.

“Graduating boot camp was a huge highlight,” Anthony recalls. “Graduating SRT (Special Reaction Team) was pretty intense. We were a tight knit group [that] worked with FBI HRT (Hostage Rescue Team).”

Winning hearts and minds

Anthony always had pets, except while he was serving in the military. He recently moved in with his girlfriend and her daughter, eight year-old Alexandra. One of their first decisions as a new family was to get a dog. They all felt the time was right. Priscilla and family

The Marine veteran started his search at the Big Dog Ranch Rescue, which happened to be one of hundreds of shelters, rescues and municipal animal controls that partner with Pets for Patriots.

“I heard about the Big Dog Ranch Rescue and when I went there, I was impressed by their facility,” Anthony says.

After asking Anthony a few questions and determining that he was a veteran, the Big Dog Ranch Rescue staff told him about Pets for Patriots and our companion pet adoption program for military veterans.

In addition to partnering with shelters and rescues across the country for companion pet adoption, Pets for Patriots provides a range of both one-time and ongoing benefits to help make pet guardianship affordable and enduring for military veterans. Adopters receive a generous gift card to defray the costs of ‘welcome home’ pet food and essentials, exclusive discounts on a wide range of pet supplies, and ongoing discounts on quality medical care through hundreds of veterinary partnerships. All in exchange for saving a hard-to-adopt dog or cat.

“I was not aware that there were such wonderful organizations in existence,” Anthony says.

The Marine did his homework, looking online and meeting dogs in person to find the perfect match for young Alexandra. Knowing that she, like any eight year-old, “has a tendency to fall in love at first site with any pup,” he decided to narrow the potential dog candidates before taking her to the shelter.

During his third trip to the rescue’s facility and after seeing scores of dogs, Anthony brought Alexandra to see the ones who he thought would a good fit for the family. To his dismay, none of the three dogs Anthony had picked worked out for Alexandra.

“One was too rambunctious for her, the next one she didn’t like, and then the last one wasn’t working well with kids,” Anthony laments.

The princess and the pup

The Marine veteran and his girlfriend were distraught.

However, a volunteer suggested that the couple take a look at her favorite dog, one she had fostered. Anthony decided he had nothing to lose by meeting Priscilla, a then two year-old Pointer mix who had been repeatedly adopted and surrendered.

“Priscilla, on cue, came out and immediately sat at Alexandra’s feet and then rolled over to have her belly scratched,” Anthony remembers fondly. “That sealed the deal.”

Priscilla was rescued from a high-kill shelter, an unfortunate term that refers to shelters that have high rates of euthanasia and where animals often have little chance of making it out alive. Since her arrival at Big Dog Ranch Rescue, the black-and-white dog had been adopted and subsequently returned on more than one occasion. While very little is known about her prior life, Anthony is confident that she did not suffer an abusive past; her demeanor towards other dogs and people is nothing but kindness.

And then there were two

Although it was not part of the plan, Anthony and his family saved another dog at the same time that Alexandra and Priscilla adopted one another. Highway is a Pit Bull mix who, as his name suggests, was found on the road. The two dogs had never met prior to their dual adoption, but Anthony insists that you would never know it. Highway and Priscilla

“The two of them together love each other,” says Anthony. “They rough-house, but they are hilarious.  Highway – he was literally found on the road two days before.”

For her part, Priscilla had a rollercoaster first week with her new family. After being hyperactive for a day and experiencing depression for a couple of days after that, she finally settled into her new home.

“The first day,” he recounts, Priscilla was “really happy and running around the yard, and [she and Highway were] getting used to each other. It was difficult at first to get her in her crate at night. The next day was horrible; it was like she went into a depression. She wouldn’t eat. The third and fourth day it was getting better.”

By the end of the week Priscilla had turned a corner.

“Within five to six days she was better,” says the veteran, “like, ‘I am here; this is my house.’”

It did not take long, however, for Priscilla to exhibit some behaviors that might explain why she had been previously adopted and returned. Behavior issues are typically among the top reasons adopted animals are surrendered, even as many people who give up their pets say they do not have time to devote to their training.

“I have gone through five pairs of new shoes, my girlfriend has gone through three and our daughter just one,” Anthony says and he chronicles the losses, adding, “and a $150 pair of sunglasses, not to mention her bedding and our furniture.”

Winning hearts and minds

Anthony learned many things during his service as a Marine, among them perseverance. The veteran found himself drawing upon his training to help Priscilla become the amazing dog he knew she could be. He describes his new charge as something of a work in progress, noting that they are working with her “one day at a time.” Anthony Alexandra and Highway

The Pointer mix, with her big personality, shows her gratitude by providing hours of laughter to the family: she seeks out fun in any way, shape or form.

“Priscilla is a stubborn but hilarious dog. I have never seen a dog seek out fun like she does,” Anthony says. “She jumps in the pool and goes for a swim when she likes.  She is an acrobat and will suddenly appear on top of a table or toy chest.  She is wonderful with kids, and sometimes too much so that she thinks she is one.  She loves the trampoline and bouncing up and down.”

By saving harder-to-place pets like Priscilla and Highway, Anthony appreciates the importance of adopting – not purchasing – a family pet. And the Marine veteran has not been shy about getting the word out about Pets for Patriots.

“I also like the adoption part of getting a pet, so I suggest that instead of buying one that they at least look at the different adoption organizations around first.”

The benefits of adopting a pet through Pets for Patriots go beyond the financial support; Anthony found out it was more personal as well. The director of veteran outreach is a Marine Corps combat veteran who served in Vietnam; he reaches out to veterans both before and after their pet adoption. Many veterans, like Anthony, are surprised to receive phone calls asking how their adoption is going.

“I honestly did not know what to expect,” he says. “I have to say that this is a phenomenal organization and I have recommended you to all of my veteran coworkers. I think you have a great program and I am happy that we have found you, and I also know I can speak for Priscilla too!”


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Veteran who overcame personal odds adopts dog left to die in city street Tue, 02 Jun 2015 15:12:42 +0000 Shawn is a dual Air Force and Army veteran who overcame tremendous personal odds in her life. It was perhaps not surprising when she adopted a dog named Crixus who was left to die by a heinous act of animal cruelty. This is their story.

From high school dropout to Army officer

I was a high school dropout and living on my own at the age of 15, when I was kicked out of my house by my step-father. I weathered the storm, got my GED and joined the military as soon as I could at age 18. Shawn and Crixus

Thirty years have gone by and lots of life lessons, but throughout it all I’ve always had a great love for all animals and currently share my life with two rescue dogs, two rescue cats, one rescue bird and two horses. I love hiking, all things dog and horse, MMA, football, SCUBA, bicycling and motorcycling. 

After my first stint with the Air Force, I got into vet school and have been a veterinarian now for 16 years.

I spent five years in the Air Force working Avionics on Cargo and Tanker aircraft from 1985-1990. I went to basic training at Lackland Air Force Base (AFB), Texas and was later stationed at McChord AFB, Washington and RAF Mildenhall, England, United Kingdom. 

I had two tours in the Army from 2000-2003 and 2009-2012.

My first tour started at Ft. Sam Houston in 2000 for the Officer Basic Course and then to the Air Force Research Lab at Brooks AFB, San Antonio where I was the veterinarian in charge of the health and welfare of all lab animals-pigs, monkeys, goats, rabbits, snakes, etc. I then went to Port Hueneme, California and worked at that naval base taking care of the military working dogs and running clinics for the military members – active and retired. I left service for six years until my daughter could graduate from high school, and went back into the Army and was given an assignment in Bamberg, Germany. I was able to travel throughout Europe, doing the veterinary mission, as well as taking care of the military working dogs and running a clinic for the soldiers’ pets. 

Crixus the monster

I particularly enjoyed my younger years in the Air Force where I went from being a street kid with no home to having a meal card, a permanent roof over my head and money in my pocket, but the highlight of my military service was caring for the military working dogs while in the Army. These soldier athletes are the most amazing creatures and have saved many lives, and I miss working with them terribly.

Like all military members, I miss my friends from the service and the camaraderie that you can’t seem to find anywhere else in life.

Destiny for dog left to die in Detroit street

I saw an article about Crixus (then called Forrest) in a Detroit newspaper. He was a young puppy that had been shot with a BB gun and left paralyzed in the street.

I certainly didn’t need another pet, but I believe that our animals choose us, we don’t choose them. Well, I was worried someone would adopt him and his needs would be too overwhelming for them and he’d end up tied up in a backyard somewhere. I knew I had to try and adopt him or else worry about what had become of him for the rest of my life. So I sent in an application and had faith that if it was meant to be it would. I was told over 200 applications had come in for this pup, so I waited and hoped.

Jennifer at the Michigan Humane Society in Detroit told me about Pets for Patriots on the very day I was to pick up Crixus. Shawn and Crixus

Somehow it came out that I was a veteran and she gave me the number to call. I was skeptical at first because this was so “last minute” and I hated to imposition someone, but I took the chance and called. I talked with Beth Zimmerman, who is the sweetest lady, and she rushed through my application. She was thrilled that I was adopting a special needs animal and was a great help. She sent me the needed paperwork and saved me over $200 off the adoption, and also sent me gift vouchers for pet food and supplies, which were a big help. Not only that, she also organized a fund raiser to buy Crixus a cart to allow him to run around normally and build strength in his remaining rear leg.

Undeterred by disability, Crixus inspires the hero who saved him

Crixus is a ball of energy and keeps me on the move. I rush home from work every day so excited to see him and the rest of the crew. He’s filled an empty place in my heart and life that have been there since my 13-year-old German Shepherd died in 2009. Crixus and Teeny

My little dog Teeny was also very sad when her big brother passed away, and now she’s acting like a puppy again with Crixus around. They love to play together and she certainly loves to have someone other than a cat and bird to boss around. 

He’s the sweetest puppy I’ve ever had. He has such a determination and drive and doesn’t seem to know there’s anything wrong with him. His limited vision and mobility certainly don’t slow him down. He gives me inspiration every day and I’m so happy that I have him in my life. He loves to be held and likes to sleep with his head right on my shoulder. He’ll even wake me sometimes to put my arms around him. Crixus outside

Pets for Patriots is a wonderful organization with such caring people that are so willing to help others. They go the extra mile to help and they have such a love for animals and they are a great contact for veterans. I’d urge all veterans to think about adopting an older dog or cat and calling Pets for Patriots for assistance.

Learn more about how companion pets help our military veterans here.

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Iraq War veteran gives overlooked older dog a second chance at life Mon, 25 May 2015 21:00:48 +0000 Brian is an Iraq war combat veteran who decided to give an overlooked, older dog the second chance he deserved. Brian and Preston

The Fighting Thirteenth

Currently working as a software developer for a medical billing company, Brian enlisted in the Marines because he “wasn’t yet ready for college.” Trained as an infantry rifleman, he deployed on the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), known as “The Fighting Thirteenth,” as well as the 31st MEU.

The young veteran’s tour of duty included a combat deployment to Iraq. Once home, he thought a dog would help make it easier to go from battlefront to home front.

“I learned of the Pets for Patriots program through a pet rescue’s website,” Brian says. “I decided to adopt through the program because it helped ease the transition from no pet to pet with buying required supplies.”

Pets for Patriots makes pet parenthood affordable for military veterans through discounts offered through adoption and veterinary partners, as well direct contributions towards the costs of welcoming a new pet home. The goals are not only to help the most overlooked homeless animals get adopted and give veterans a new best friend, but to reduce the chances of these pets being returned to shelters due to cost of care.

Send in the Marines

Preston was a seven year-old, gray Weimaraner at the Big Dog Ranch Rescue with few prospects for adoption. Since most people prefer younger or smaller companion pets, he had two strikes against him as a large, senior dog. Preston napping

Fortunately, Brian saw something – and someone – worth saving.

“He’s older,” the Marine veteran says, “but still has a lot of lovable energy.”

Following a “meet and greet” at Big Dog Ranch Rescue Brian arranged to bring Preston home. The rescue offers Pets for Patriots veterans a deeply reduced adoption fee of $50, and through its affiliation with a Florida-based Weimaraner rescue the organization typically has dogs of that particular breed available.

Second chances

Contrary to popular belief, one of the many benefits of older companion pets is their ability to adapt to new situations. For Preston, this included getting acquainted with the family’s other four-legged member: the cat.

“Preston is doing great getting adjusted to his new surroundings,” Brian says. “He is interested in meeting our cat, but is very gentle about it.”

The big dog’s gentlemanly demeanor around the cat should not be mistaken for a lack of vigor. To the contrary, Preston is a “high energy” dog who gets his Marine to take him out at least twice a day for walks. He “listens well – most of the time,” and has a “goofy” personality that Brian finds compatible with his own. Brian and Preston at beach_love

“We feel like we owe him, so we often take him with us if we go to outdoor events, including farmers markets,” says Brian. “We occasionally take him to a dog beach as well.”

Many shelters and rescues will keep companion pets, like Preston, for as long as it takes to find them the right home. Although this spares these animals the grimmest fate, life in the best animal welfare organization still pales in comparison to a loving home of one’s own. By adopting Preston, Brian not only gave the older dog a second chance at life, but gave his own new meaning as well.

“He really is a great dog that needed a second chance,” he says, “and because of his age he was often overlooked. I’m glad we are the ones to give him that chance as he makes a great addition to our family.”

Learn more about the ways companion dogs and cats help military veterans.

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