We know of the incredible benefits of service animals, and no more so than in their work with our military members and veterans. However, service animals are often hard to obtain due to cost and lack of availability. At the same time, millions of homeless dogs languish in shelters waiting for an adoption which may never come. Enter Pets for Patriots, a nonprofit organization that pairs the most at-risk shelter pets with military personnel. It's a win-win situation that saves lives - human, canine and feline!
Nate Hamilton is a 29 year-old, three-tour Navy veteran who returned from war with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as well as physical scars and limitations from an IED blast that nearly shattered his entire body. After his application for a service dog was denied, Nate was aided by Pets for Patriots in finding his savior, Otis, in a shelter. Nate noticed the American Bulldog was sitting quietly among the din of the bustling shelter and when they went for a walk together on the shelter grounds, Otis went right to Nate's car as if he knew they were a match.
Otis was indeed the perfect match for the injured veteran. Otis himself had endured a rough life. Found on the streets, underweight, with a broken tooth and full of scars, he needed a hero to rescue and adopt him. The two went home to begin a mutual healing process.
Although Otis was not a 'service animal', he intuitively became just what Nate needed. Beth Zimmerman, Pets for Patriots Founder and Executive Director, says, "There's a mistaken impression that everyone will qualify for a service animal but for most veterans, a companion pet can be just as therapeutic, and even life-saving." Otis wakes Nate from nightmares and seizures, helps him stand from a seated position, and is helping Nate get used to crowds again by accompanying him to local restaurants.
Nate is now off of almost all of the many medicines he took, too. "Otis turned out to be the best medicine for me. I have something to wake up to and something to look forward to when I come home," he says. Otis and Nate even raise money for local shelters by selling 'Otis kisses'!
Pets for Patriots has so many success stories like this one. In pairing military personnel with high-risk shelter pets, they require the dogs or cats to meet one of the following criteria...
- 2 years of age or older
- A special needs animal (senior, disabled in some way, chronic medical condition, etc)
- A large animal 40 lbs. or more, of any age
With these requirements, pets who are most at-risk are saved. Pets for Patriots has hundreds of partner shelters and veterinarians in their program. They give discounted adoption fees, discounted fees for medical care for the life of the pet, food and other pet supplies, and ongoing support. Their goal is "to make the benefits of shelter pet adoption a reality for military personnel, ensuring many years of friendship, companionship and joy with their honorably adopted dog or cat".
The popular pet rescue saying, "Who Rescued Who?", is never more true than in the bonds formed between our military and the homeless pets they save through Pets for Patriots. What could be better?
Thank you to our military men and women / Shelter pets rock! Remember to adopt, spay or neuter, tag and microchip, and love your pets for life!
Learn more about Pets for Patriots. Find a local shelter partner, or DONATE to help this organization help our veterans!