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Pittsburgh-area organization pairs dogs with veterans

Organization pairs dogs with veterans
Organization pairs dogs with veterans 03:03

WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) — The therapeutic benefits of owning a pet are proven, but a local organization takes the dynamic of animal-human companionship to another level.

Now, the pets are helping veterans and first responders who have dealt with trauma and may be experiencing PTSD, anxiety or depression.

VetPets of Southwestern Pennsylvania is a non-profit organization that has a new location in Quail Acres in Washington County, and KDKA-TV got an insider's look at the training it offers that connects veterans and service dogs, turning them into what it calls "wellness warriors."

"We got Tri from New Hope Assistance Dogs. They train their dogs in correctional facilities. They give their dogs to someone like Richard," said president Omar Brooks.  

Brooks too is a veteran, having served in Iraq. Tri is in his final phase of training. Richard Hawkins is a Vietnam veteran who will take Tri home to serve as a service and support animal.   

It's a long training process, taking 18 to 24 months. Hawkins says it's all been worth it. 

"My goal right now is to help these people out because they've helped me so much. It's unreal," said Richard. "I don't have a way to put it into words."  

The PetVets Gala for Heroes is sold out, but the organization still needs donations for resources and supplies to help more veterans and first responders.  

The dogs also travel to schools and community events to educate students and families.

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