If you’ve recently returned from a military deployment, you already know how hard settling back in to civilian life can be. Even if you’ve been home for years, you might still find it difficult to deal with the physical and emotional effects of combat and service.
Fortunately, many veterans just like you have found solace and support in the form of a pet. If you don’t already have a dog, you might not have considered getting one. You’ve heard of service dogs for people with physical disabilities, but how could a dog help someone whose difficulties are more mental or spiritual?
In this blog, we’ll explore why more veterans should have pets and how dogs have benefited members of the military.
Why Vets Need Pets
Veterans benefit from pets in two main ways:
Many veterans such as yourself struggle with anxiety, depression, and other mental afflictions after military service. Conditions such as PTSD can make it difficult to function normally in society. However, pets help heal these emotional wounds and aid you on the road to recovery.
Even if you don’t have a physical disability from combat, pets can have a positive effect on your body as well as your mind. Many experts agree that having a pet can reduce your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol, and decrease your triglyceride levels. Who ever thought a golden retriever could actually help you live longer?
How Pets Help Vets
Pets help veterans readjust to civilian life and overcome emotional struggles with the following.
Many veterans feel isolated and lonely when they come home from military service. Even those with close family members often feel misunderstood or like an outsider. Pets provide a valuable form of unconditional companionship to both veterans who live alone and those who live with others.
Civilian life lacks the rigor and structure of military duty. Many veterans feel like they don’t know what to do with their time, and they miss the purpose they had during their service. A pet can provide you with a valuable routine. When your dog needs to feeding, walking, grooming, and training, you have goals to work toward, not to mention a living being that depends on you.
Some veterans, particularly those who suffer from PTSD, find it difficult to emotionally connect to their friends and family when they come home. A dog can help bridge the gap between you and your loved ones and rekindle your ability to feel an emotional connection.
Where to Get a Pet as a Vet
Many organizations help veterans find appropriate service or companion animals. We’ve listed three such organizations.
1. Paws for Purple Hearts
Paws for Purple Hearts teaches veterans with psychological wounds, such as PTSD, to train service animals that later go on to help physically disabled veterans. This program allows veterans to help and heal each other through their work with animals.
Paws4Vets pairs veterans with specially-selected shelter animals. Professionals train the animals to fit into the veteran’s lifestyle and prepare them to be around things like crutches and wheelchairs, as well as recognize symptoms of anxiety in their future owners. This program allows shelter pets to get a second chance and veterans to benefit from pet ownership.
3. Patriot PAWS
Patriot PAWS trains service dogs to assist veterans suffering from physical disabilities, emotional injuries, or both. These dogs can help with mobility as well as symptoms of PTSD.
If you’ve had a hard time dealing with life after military service, look for organizations near you that can help you find a service or companion animal.