Hero Pets 4 Hero Vets

Nevada / June 19, 2012 / by The Team

The stresses and trauma of returning from active duty in the military are often over looked by every day society. As disabled navy veterans themselves, nobody understands this better than husband and wife, Michael and Brenda Carlson. In April 2011, they started an organization to help veterans in Northern Nevada deal with the daily stresses by providing them with a pet. 

Hero Pets 4 Hero Vets was inspired by the effect a small rescue dog named Piper had on Michael’s foster father, Daniel Chapman, who is himself a disabled Vietnam veteran with Agent Orange poisoning. 

When Chapman went to visit his son and daughter-in-law shortly after they had taken Piper in from a shelter, he very quickly became enamored with her. The effects she had on him were remarkable. “For some reason, this little rescue just clicked with him,” says Brenda Carlson. 

They gave Chapman the dog to take home with him and Brenda Carlson explains that "within months, my father-in-law, who'd actually given up on life, had lost 40lbs, his diabetes was under control."

The Carlsons themselves were no strangers to the effects animals can have on disabled vets. Brenda Carlson explains that it is "one of those things where we know from our experiences, the physical issues, the emotional issues, all those types of encompassing things that come along with being a disabled veteran. Our animals have really helped us a lot, too."

The effect their dog, Piper, had on Chapman was just the final push they needed to start Hero Pets 4 Hero Vets. 

As Brenda Carlson explains, "our mission statement is to actually take rescue animals - any sort of an animal - and match it up to veterans in active duty or disabled veterans." And when they say "any sort of an animal," that is exactly what they mean. 

The pets are far from your average cat or dog. While they do pair up veterans with dogs, including service dogs for those who need more than companionship, they do offer more unusual pets. 

Ranging from birds to turtles and iguanas, Hero Pets 4 Hero Vets is very aware of the importance a pet can play in someone’s life as well as the fact that they might not be able to take care of an animal such as a dog. 

For those veterans who live in a small apartment or who are unable to leave the house each day, a reptile can provide the perfect solution. They still provide companionship but are less work for the veteran on a day-to-day basis. 

Veteran James Bruns explains that having his iguana has helped him greatly. "If you have responsibilities, it’ll get you doing things" and because his iguana needs sun, even if he himself might not, it forces him to "get outside with him, it gets me out and doing things, moving about."

The other advantage to a pet is that when a veteran is feeling less than sociable, the company will help cheer them up but it also requires less of an effort on the veteran’s part if they feel like time to themselves. As Bruns says, "if I don’t feel good, he’s not hurt ... he doesn’t require much."

Hero Pets 4 Hero Vets pairs the veteran with the pet they feel will best provide them with support and companionship. After an initial ‘date’ where the pet and vet get to know each other, they are invited to go on a second outing to see if they will work together well. 

There’s no pressure for the veteran to take the pet with them. Brenda Carlson emphasizes that "we want to make sure it’s a perfect match."

The animals they offer to the veterans are all saved from rescues or some who are about to become homeless. In pairing these homeless animals with the veterans, they  create a perfect combination that helps both parties involved and truly changes people’s lives. 

Michael Carlson says that "it made a difference in my dad’s life and we just started doing this and we’re noticing a major difference in people’s lives."

To learn more about Hero Pets 4 Hero Vets, visit their website and Facebook page.