Read on to learn about the benefits Pets for Vets companion animals give their Veterans (and Veterans give their animals) every day.
When Pets for Vets matches a Veteran with his/her new animal companion, something remarkable happens. They quickly form an unbreakable Super Bond® –lifting each other up, protecting each other and building a better life together in a myriad of amazing ways.
Individuals with strong and rewarding social connections are happier, have fewer health problems and live longer than those who don’t. It can be tough for Veterans to make these important connections but Pets for Vets skilled animal companions motivate their owners to rejoin society and transition back into civilian life. Dogs are especially good at this. Just by going on daily walks, Veterans are more likely to meet and engage with others thanks to the built-in conversation starter of their four-legged sidekick.
Just looking into Wookiee’s eyes and playing with her each day gives me great delight! Taking her for small walks gives me responsibility for someone else on days that I’m depressed, and a reason to get up and function. –MaryAnn D.
Pets never judge, instead, offering only unconditional love, support and a feeling of safety. For Veterans, the knowledge that their animal companion is always there for them can help reduce hypervigilance, depression, anxiety and nightmares. Pets can even help bring the Veteran back to the present during a flashback just by moving, barking or nudging with a paw. For the animals, having a routine and a human they trust gives them a sense of belonging and security they may have not had before.
Not only do Pets for Vets animal companions improve mental well-being, they can actually boost overall health. And Veterans do the same for them! When petting an animal, the hormone oxytocin is released into the brain of both the human and the animal, creating a sense of calm, regulating breathing, and lowering blood pressure and pulse rate. Health is further improved through shared physical activity such as walks, hikes, runs and playing games like fetch.
"She is my best friend and even though we haven't lived together for long, I honestly couldn't think of what I would do without her. Sloopy is always right there for me, she watches TV with me, runs with me in the park and even sleeps right by me in my bed. There is never a time (other than when I'm at work) that we are apart." – Eric
Each year in the U.S., over 6.5 million animals enter shelters and approximately 1.5 million are euthanized. All animals selected for the program are rescued from animal welfare organizations around the country. When a Veteran adopts a Pets for Vets companion animal, he or she can feel great knowing he/she is literally saving a life. Not only does the Veteran’s companion receive a second chance, the adoption opens up space in the shelter for another pet.
Transitioning to civilian life can be extremely difficult for many service men and women who have returned with physical and/or emotional injuries. By some estimates, as many as 20% of returning military veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Pets may also suffer from traumatic experiences such as abuse, being dumped on the streets or being surrendered to a noisy, frightening shelter. Both are looking for a way to start again and they find that in each other.
Because of the Super Bond® they share, Veterans begin to view themselves and the world the way their pet does. They see their best qualities reflected in their pet’s eyes, which boosts their self-esteem and confidence. Instead of feeling threatened by the outside world, their pet draws them into it and reminds them that life is full of joy and adventure. By observing how their pet appreciates every day and every moment, they learn to do the same. Once a Veteran opens his or her heart to a companion animal, it paves the way to opening themselves to others.
“Mac is absolutely everything I needed; he has changed my life. He is the perfect dog for me. I love him to pieces.” – Amy