Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms. George Eliot
The Pets for Vets program is dedicated to supporting veterans and providing a second chance for shelter pets by rescuing, training and pairing them with America’s veterans who could benefit from a companion animal.
The Pets… 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year. These animals can make excellent companion animals but never have that chance. Our dedicated animal trainers will evaluate and rescue the shelter animals and provide additional training to ensure that they are able to assimilate into a home, which is quite different from a shelter environment.
The Vets… Sadly, there are alarming statistics of suicide, family abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder facing veterans returning to civilian life after military duty. This can cause a downward spiral of apathy, unemployment, broken relationships, addiction and depression. It is our belief that companion animals can be the life saving therapy or friend that many returning service men and women need
Medical studies have shown that companion animals significantly improve mental and physical health, including reducing stress, depression and anxiety, symptoms experienced by many serving in the military.
The Pets for Vets team interviews each veteran to ascertain what he or she is looking for in a companion animal; we pair this with his or her personality and lifestyle to make the perfect veteran-pet match. Once the perfect pet is selected for the veteran, the pet spends time in the home of one of our trainers who teaches the pet basic obedience and other valuable behaviors needed to live with his/her new owner. This can include becoming comfortable with wheel chairs or behaviors needed to help with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Veterans who have a condition that could benefit from a trained companion animal and who are able to care for a pet, are eligible to receive a Pets for Vets companion animal.
By placing dogs in an MRI scanner, researchers from Hungary found that the canine brain reacts to voices in the same way that the human brain does. Emotionally charged sounds, such as crying or laughter, also prompted similar responses, perhaps explaining why dogs are attuned to human emotions.
Eleven pet dogs took part in the study; training them took some time. “We used positive reinforcement strategies – lots of praise,” said Dr Andics. “There were 12 sessions of preparatory training, then seven sessions in the scanner room, then these dogs were able to lie motionless for as long as eight minutes. Once they were trained, they were so happy, I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it.”
Interesting article about pets and how humans react/respond to them. From the abstract:
Neural substrates underlying the human-pet relationship are largely unknown. We examined fMRI brain activation patterns as mothers viewed images of their own child and dog and an unfamiliar child and dog. There was a common network of brain regions involved in emotion, reward, affiliation, visual processing and social cognition when mothers viewed images of both their child and dog. Viewing images of their child resulted in brain
activity in the midbrain (ventral tegmental area/substantia nigra involved in reward/affiliation), while a more posterior cortical brain activation pattern involving fusiform gyrus (visual processing of faces and social cognition) characterized a mother’s response to her dog. Mothers also rated images of their child and dog as eliciting similar levels of excitement (arousal) and pleasantness (valence), although the difference in the own vs. unfamiliar child comparison was larger than the own vs. unfamiliar dog comparison for arousal. Valence ratings of their dog were also positively correlated with ratings of the attachment to their dog. Although there are similarities in the perceived emotional experience and brain function associated with the mother-child and mother-dog bond, there are also key differences that may reflect variance in the evolutionary course and function of these relationships.
Stoeckel LE, Palley LS, Gollub RL, Niemi SM, Evins AE (2014) Patterns of Brain Activation when Mothers View Their Own Child and Dog: An fMRI Study. PLoS ONE 9(10): e107205. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0107205