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Jan 21, 2018







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Volunteer or find a pet

To find out about volunteer opportunities, or if you’re a veteran looking for a new furry friend, contact the New Hampshire chapter of Pets for Vets at 420-8139 or petsforvetsnh@gmail.org. Visit pets-for-vets.com.




Pets for Vets
Helping veterans find a buddy for life

03/20/14



 John Sofronas was a sniper for the Marine Corps and completed his fourth tour before he Googled Pets for Vets. Since then, the Manchester resident has spent several months working with the organization, waiting patiently to be paired with the perfect furry friend. 

There are 18 chapters of Pets for Vets nationwide; less than two years ago, Katie Brouillette-Schwartz started the New Hampshire chapter with her husband, Rick, from their home in Merrimack. The program is run completely through volunteers and donations, and Brouillette-Schwartz is hoping to find more volunteers to help them with what can be a long process. 
“We work with the veteran to find out their needs and adopt out a dog for them,” said Katie Brouillette-Schwartz, the chapter director for Pets for Vets of New Hampshire.
A veteran’s return home can be just as hard as fighting overseas, Brouillette said, and they can often have post traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety, anxiety and depression. Animals can help them cope, particularly dogs.
“People have said [a dog] is there to listen, even if they don’t talk back, and there’s no judgement,” Brouillette-Schwartz said. “It’s definitely difficult for [veterans] to be in large crowds. With the animal, [people] can focus on the animal, or the [veteran] can stand behind the animal. It’s a calming experience to know that the dog has their back.” 
Sofronas has gone through several interviews and home visits with Brouillette-Schwartz to find the perfect dog from a nearby shelter. 
“We evaluate the dog’s temperament. If the veteran wants to be with the dog all the time, or run with them, go hiking — we look for that in the animal for them,” Brouillette-Schwartz said. 
Sofronas said that once the right dog is found, Pets for Vets will spend six to eight weeks training the dog and making sure it will react well to Sofronas and his home environment. The trainer will continue to help train the dog after the transition to Sofronas’ home. 
“I don’t have the time or the means to train [a dog], so it’s unique in that sense that the trainer comes to my house,” Sofronas said. 
Pets for Vets looks for dogs that are between the ages of 2 and 6, because puppies are generally too hard to handle for most veterans. For a veteran, finding an animal can be a traumatic experience if it’s not a right fit, Brouillette Schwartz said. 
“We try to take that step out of the process,” Brouillette-Schwartz said. “Our dogs are mostly emotional companions for veterans who are looking for support, but we do have animals that help veterans who might be [disabled].”
According to Brouillette-Schwartz, most of the veterans have already worked with dogs in the military before.
“They’ve experienced that bond before and seen some of the benefits,” she said. “It helps them to focus on the positive and not the negative so much.” 
Sofronas is currently the second veteran the New Hampshire Pets for Vets chapter is working on pairing with a dog. 
“I’m just taking every day as it goes,” Sofronas said. “In this program, the trainer comes to me, and sees as to where I’m living, what my needs are, and that makes it less of a burden on me and less stressful, which is what the program is designed for.” 
Right now the program is in need of volunteers to help the process move faster, since Brouillette-Schwartz and her husband, as well as one trainer, are the only people keeping the program up and running. They want to be able to reach more veterans who are looking to be paired. They need volunteers to help with interviews, home visits and training. They also need people to help market the chapter and what they do. 
Pets for Vets isn’t all about dogs; it tries to meet any animal requests that veterans have. Regardless of the animal, the program initially provides all the basics, like food and leashes and toys. 
“We pay the adoption fee and work with the veterans to ease that financial burden. There are a lot of steps to the process, so volunteers to help with home visits, fostering, training and marketing and media is helpful. We want people to know more about us so that we can accomplish more goals in 2014,”  Brouillette-Schwartz said.  
 
As seen in the March 20, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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