The National Pets for Veterans Day, observed on October 21stevery year, is a great time to pair shelter animals needing permanent homes with army and service veterans in need of loyal animal companions. That aside, the National Pets for Veterans Day helps in spreading awareness about the health benefits a veteran gets from owning a pet.
Why do service veterans need pets?
The transition from a military routine to civilian life can be challenging. War and fighting often leaves physical and emotional scars. While a stint in the armed forces changes life perspectives, returning home from the warfront requires new adjustments. Animal companionship has proved to be helpful in the emotional recovery of battle-fatigued veterans. Pets bring unconditional love, warmth, and comfort, which was why the National Pets for Veterans Day was created.
The animals also benefit from being rescued and having a home. Many pets are themselves victim of abuse and trauma, which may be a reason animals instantly bond with military veterans.
Easing mental health concerns
Armed forces personnel often leave the service with mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Injuries suffered while answering the call of duty often have an emotional impact on veterans. Pets can help in overcoming loneliness and depression.
Unlike the civilian population, veterans don’t get to socialize as much since they are mostly away on duty. An animal companion can help make socializing more accessible. Dogs are particularly good in motivating their owners to become more socially active. Taking their pets for a daily walk can help veterans bond with other pet owners.
Creating a safety net
Pets never judge. Their love for humans is unconditional. Besides providing genuine love and support, dogs create a safety net for their owners. They even guide their owners to safety by barking or nudging during an emergency like earthquake, flood, or cyclone.
Military personnel in active service spend years following a strict routine. Once they retire or are decommissioned, there’s no one issuing orders anymore. Many army veterans, without a military structure to follow, find themselves out of sync with the rest of their family. A dog can add a routine back to life. They need to be taken out every day and fed at regular intervals. Even cats need their bed changed regularly. Pets must be vaccinated at regular intervals. All these can bring a sense of structure back to the life of a veteran.
Veteran or not, it’s always great to have a pet. They understand human emotions and respond to love and affection in ways that humans can’t. We all can find a companion for life in a pet.
Finding Service Animals
Depending on their needs, veterans can either rescue a pet for a shelter or apply for a service dog that is specifically trained to attend to their needs and fit their lifestyle. If veterans are looking for a companion but do not need a trained service dog, they can go to a local shelter or pet rehoming organization to find pets that need a home.
There are also organizations that specialize in helping veterans who have PTSD or disabilities as a result of their service. There are many organizations that offer veterans the chance to apply for a service dog, including American Humane’s Pups4Patriots program, America’s VetDogs, and K9s For Warriors. Veterans can apply for service dogs for little to no cost, and the organizations will train veterans to care for their service dogs. With these resources, veterans can find service dogs that can help them adapt better to civilian life and provide them with support and companionship.