Serving Those Who Have Served: Caring for veterans and their companion animals

“Thank you for your service!” How many of us have offered these words of appreciation when we see a service member in uniform? And they are appropriate, albeit vastly insufficient words. But as I was perusing Upworthy on Veteran’s Day morning, I came across stories of two amazing organizations that are expressing their appreciation to our veterans in a much more profound and tangible way. While there are many groups out there doing fantastic work serving veterans, these two groups, PACT for Animals and Pets for Vets, are doing so in a somewhat different way.

PACT for Animals is a non-profit that provides temporary foster homes for the pets of military services members when they are called for deployment. They also foster pets of those who are hospitalized and are temporarily unable to care for their pets. By fostering these animals, they not only offer piece of mind for those serving our country that their companion animal won’t end up in a shelter and that they will be well loved until they can be reunited, but the foster families also provide regular updates to pet owners, including photos, messages and videos of their beloved pets. Check out this Upworthy video to see the amazing work this group is doing. Given the incredible sacrifices our veterans have made to serve our country, it seems to me that doing what we can to make sure their loved ones, including their four-legged loved ones, are taken care of while they are deployed is the least we can do.

Pets for Vets is dedicated to supporting veterans and providing a second chance for shelter pets by rescuing, training and pairing them with veterans who could benefit from a companion animal. The group takes animals from shelters that would otherwise be euthanized and then professional animal trainers rehabilitate the animals and teach them good manners to fit into the veteran’s lifestyle, whether that be desensitizing them to wheel chairs, being of assistance to someone with a TBI, or being an emotional assistance animal to someone struggling with PTSD. Check out this Upworthy video on the project.

Although research in this area is still somewhat preliminary (and antecdotal opinion seems to have gotten ahead of the data), there is growing evidence of the physical and mental health benefits companion animals can provide. Groups like PACT for Animals and Pets for Vets are harnessing the healing power of pets as a way to serve those who have served our country. On this Veteran’s Day I wanted to take a moment to express my appreciation not only to those who have served, but also those who support those who have served in all the various ways we do that, from my incredibly dedicated colleagues who work at VAs to groups like PACT for Animals and Pets for Vets. Thank you ALL for serving in the way that you do.

Author: Jenna LeJeune, Ph.D

Jenna LeJeune, Ph.D. is co-founder and President of Portland Psychotherapy Clinic, Research, and Training Center in Portland, Oregon. As a clinical psychologist, Jenna specializes in working with clients struggling with relationship difficulties, including problems with intimacy and sexuality, trauma-related relationship challenges, and struggles people have in their relationship with their own bodies. She is the co-author of the forthcoming book, “Values in Therapy: A Clinician’s Guide to Helping Clients Explore Values, Increase Psychological Flexibility, and Live a More Meaningful Life.” Jenna is also a peer-reviewed ACT trainer and provides ACT trainings to professionals around the world.


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