Military Veterans Ruth and her husband, Bryan, were no strangers to Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation; they had previously adopted two dogs from ARF.
They were still grieving the loss of their beloved black lab when Ruth discovered we had a program for Veterans called Pets and Vets. She saw an opportunity to heal from both the loss of her beloved dog and her PTSD symptoms.
Psychiatric service dogs provide powerful, proven therapeutic and practical benefits for Veterans readjusting to civilian life.
Like trusted battle buddies, rescue dogs selected for our Pets and Vets program train with their Veterans as a team under the guidance of our professional trainers. Over the course of nine to 12 months, Pets and Vets dogs learn life-changing service animal skills to help alleviate anxiety and panic attacks, reduce symptoms of PTSD, and more.
“I kept an eye on ARF for a while before I met Lucy. I was looking for a clingy dog who could keep me company while Bryan is at work,” recalls Ruth. “The Pets and Vets manager suggested she had a pit bull mix who might be a perfect fit for me. So I came in to meet Lucy.”
Lucy had recently returned to our adoption center after spending weeks in a volunteer foster home raising her newborn puppies. Motherhood came easy to Lucy, but it was hard on her body. Before being rescued from a municipal shelter, Lucy was found abandoned, pregnant, and malnourished.
She was severely underweight and developed a ruptured mammary gland. But that didn’t stop her from nursing her 11 puppies, all of whom were quickly adopted. Now it was Lucy’s turn.
Our professional trainers identified Lucy as having the qualities needed to train to become a psychiatric service dog for a Veteran through our Pets and Vets program. “She was so mild and sweet, creeping timidly over to me when we first met,” remembers Ruth. “I walked around with Lucy, and I fell in love with her.”
Following the adoption, Ruth and Lucy began free classes to train Lucy for her new role. “It’s been a joy training with the Pets and Vets team. I love being able to zone in and focus on one task at a time when it comes to training, so Lucy and I don’t feel overwhelmed,” Ruth explains.
Thanks to supporters, every Pets and Vets dog and all of the professional training are provided free of charge to Veterans. Beyond free adoptions and training, Veterans find the Pets and Vets program offers much more. This program is unique because Veterans train their own service dogs in Veteran-only classes. The training course takes up to 12 months, beginning with basic obedience and finishing with perfecting service dog skills in public settings to help mitigate symptoms of the Veteran’s disability.
“All of the different military branches come together in this program, and we feel like a family, and I have a sense of community,” says Ruth. “I receive free pet food, shots, and nail trims for Lucy. This program is truly a blessing.”
Having Lucy’s attachment and companionship makes Ruth feel at peace. Ruth loves that Lucy is so docile and laid-back; it reflects off of her and helps Ruth feels more relaxed. But it’s not just Ruth who has been benefiting from Lucy’s presence. “My husband and I saved another life by adopting; we rescued her, and she rescued us. We thank God every day for her.”
Together they are on their journey to becoming a certified psychiatric service dog team, supporting each other — Saving Both Ends of the Leash®.
To submit your ARF-adopted pet’s story and photos, fill out our online submission form.