To many people, a dog is simply a companion, friend and family member. However, for a veteran who may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the unconditional love and support a dog provides can mean the difference between simply existing and returning to a meaningful, balanced life as a civilian.
Atlanta’s Humane Society’s Companion Pets for Vets program is made possible through the support of organizations such as NRCA member Klein Contracting Corp., Doraville, Ga., which has provided support for the program since its launch in 2014. Financial support for this program funds adoption fees for companion animals for those who have served in the armed forces.
Studies have shown the simple act of caring for a dog decreases high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and feelings of loneliness, along with providing pet owners an increased likelihood of engaging in exercise, outdoor activities and socializing with others.
The suicide rate among U.S. veterans is extremely high, and there are not enough resources to support them.
Klein Contracting felt it is important for the community to find new ways to reverse this trend, so it created and worked on a project designed to increase the quality of life for combat veterans who may be struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder by matching them with companion animals.
Through the Companion Pets for Vets program, the Atlanta Humane Society has successfully adopted more than 220 animals for veterans within the metropolitan Atlanta. This not only proves a benefit to shelter animals, who have found a new opportunity for love and a permanent home, but it also provides a second chance for health and happiness for the veterans.
In 2008, Thomas Baez joined the military. As an Airborne Infantry Soldier, he spent more than four years fighting for in Afghanistan and Iraq and participated in humanitarian missions in Haiti. Oversees, he thought sleepless nights were normal. Upon returning home, sleeping became even more difficult, and he found himself depressed. That’s when he went to the Atlanta Humane Society and found Dagger, a black lab mix.
“Dagger helped me tremendously. The last thing I would’ve thought was he was going to rescue me,” Baez says. “I can sleep now. He is there with me every night. His love gave me a chance to give the world another try.”
The 28-year-old Atlanta native is a black belt in karate and now a karate instructor. He wants to share his story in hopes other Veterans will take advantage of this program and help an animal in need to find a forever home.
The organization also provides service dogs for children and adults who have physical disabilities, seizure conditions or other special needs.