Our First Match: Pets for Vets Pittsburgh at Animal FriendsDec 01, 2016 08:11AM ● By North Hills Monthly Magazine
We are thrilled to share Don and Louie's story as the very first match through Animal Friends as the official Pittsburgh Chapter of Pets for Vets!
With an enormous smile on his face, Retired Army Sgt. Donald Borland greeted Louie, a 2-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, for the first time. Louie returned the sentiment with a wag of his tail, not knowing how much this moment meant to Don.
It all started about seven months before their match day. Don, a lifelong dog lover, was looking online at some of the adoptable dogs at various animal rescues and shelters in the region when he came across the Pets for Vets Pittsburgh Chapter at Animal Friends. He immediately picked up the phone and took the first step toward bringing him and his new best friend together.
Pets for Vets is a national organization that supports veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) by matching them with companion animals that have been carefully selected for them based on their lifestyle, personality and specific needs. While Don, a decorated combat veteran of Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, would give Louie a loving home, Louie would give Don something just as important –the unconditional love and companionship only a pet can provide.
Louie is a sweet and outgoing little guy who loves just about everyone he meets. Don will tell you he’s quite the ladies’ man! These two became instant best friends after they met when it quickly became clear that Louie had found his family and Don had found the perfect sidekick.
The amazing bond that Don and Louie share is no coincidence. It isn’t the result of luck or chance either. It’s thanks to the skill, commitment and love of certified Pets for Vets trainer Debi Meehan. Debi met Louie after he had been rescued from a high-kill shelter and placed in a foster home. After evaluating him, she knew that he would be a good match for the program and—more importantly—for Don. Once Louie had been identified as a match for Don, he began a six-week “boot camp” with Debi in her home where she taught him skills and behaviors personalized to Don’s needs.
After his match day, Don presented Debi with a Military Challenge Coin as a thank you. Don was given the coin by his general following Iraqi Freedom – he had been holding onto it to give it to someone who deserved it. Not only did Don find a new companion in Louie with the help of Pets for Vets and Animal Friends, he made what he calls a lifelong friend in Debi. When we asked Don about the program and what he’d want to tell other veterans about it, his words were short, sweet and to the point: “Simply awesome.”
Don and Louie are the first of what are sure to be many successful matches made through the Pets for Vets Pittsburgh Chapter at Animal Friends, but to connect more vets with pets, we need trainers! If you’re interested in becoming a Pets for Vets trainer who can help us tell more Happy Tails like Don and Louie’s, contact Kellie at KRoberts@ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org.