Animal Trainer Clarissa Black created Pets for Vets, Inc. in 2009 as a way to say thank you to our nation’s heroes. The organization brings together two of her greatest passions – helping Veterans and saving animal lives.
With a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science from Cornell University and a Masters in Anthrozoology from Canisius College, Clarissa has always been fascinated by animal behavior and the power of the human-animal bond. She began her career by working with elephants and dolphins, where she learned advanced animal training principles and applied them to husbandry, veterinary, research, and program training.
Clarissa eventually shifted her focus to professional dog training, where she was able to apply many of these same lessons and training principles to man’s (and woman’s) best friend. During this time, she developed personalized training and behavior plans that helped set both the owner and the dog up for success using positive reinforcement techniques.
While consulting on therapy dog work in the company of America’s Veterans and wounded soldiers, she saw firsthand how important animals can be in recovery. She watched their positive reaction to her own dog, Bear – smiling and joking that they wanted to take him home with them. After witnessing the powerful role dogs played in the recovery of these troops, the idea of Pets for Vets was born. If one hour a week with Bear made such a difference, how much more of an impact could a Veteran’s own pet make? By pairing Veterans with shelter animals, it was clear they would each receive the second chance they deserved.
Pets for Vets was founded with both the Veteran and the animal in mind. Because of Clarissa’s personal experience with PTSD, she has the ability to recognize what each Veteran needs from his or her companion. To ensure that these needs are met, Clarissa designed a unique matching process called the Super Bond®, which helps create an instant, lasting connection between animal and human. Her years of experience and knowledge give her insight into the type of training each animal needs. The positive reinforcement training philosophy she developed encourages the Veteran and his/her pet to work together in a mutually beneficial way based on trust and respect instead of force.
"You would think that a dog is just a dog. That may be true for some, but not me.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."
"He’s more than just a friend. He’s my battle buddy. He’s my left hand. We’re connected by a leash, but it’s really our umbilical cord. He’s sometimes more tuned into me than I’m tuned into me. He knows more about me than I do sometimes. He lets me know what’s going on."