On Veteran’s Day, the nation will take time to honor the brave men and women who have served our country. At Ohio State, one organization is playing its part by helping to heal the emotional wounds of veterans.
Pets for Vets at Ohio State is a student-run organization dedicated to supporting military veterans suffering from PTSD, a traumatic brain injury or depression by pairing them with a shelter dog at risk of being euthanized.
For Samantha Barbarek, Pets for Vets’ secretary, being able to help facilitate the process is a heartwarming experience.
“It’s really a humbling experience when we’re able to match a veteran and a dog successfully,” Barbarek, a third-year in security and intelligence, said. “To see two parties that have been in really trying times and to bring them together in order to comfort each other and be there for each other that’s really [a] special thing.”
Abiding by the motto, “Saving pets. Healing vets,” the organization at Ohio State is a smaller chapter that focuses on fundraising to contribute to the larger Columbus chapter that matches pets and veterans.
On Thursday, Pets for Vets will host its fourth-annual Veteran’s Day Doughnut Sale at the Wexner Center Plaza from 6 p.m. until 3 a.m. Friday. All doughnuts will be provided by Duck Donuts and 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit the Pets for Vets Columbus chapter to assist in its mission.
“It’s good to bring the community together,” Barbarek said. “Whether you’ve been in the military or not, or you love pets or you love your country; it just brings it all together for such a great cause.”
Brian Miele, a Navy veteran and second-year in sociology, said having his two rescue dogs, Minnie and Summer, helped tremendously with his life after active duty.
“They’re phenomenal … you have a bad day and you come home and there’s wagging tails and happy faces to see you,” Miele said. “Summer, being a soon-to-be therapy dog, has the perfect personality for it. [She’s] very emotionally attached, very cognitive of knowing what’s going on. She can sense if you’re in a bad mood and just come and sit by you.”
That type of unsaid bond is one of the most important connections in the relationship for many veterans and their pets, Barbarek said.
“The dog is like a companion animal, they don’t judge … they’re just there as a comfort,” Barbarek said. “That’s a really big thing for veterans because people say that they understand … but it’s hard when they’ve never been in that situation because they don’t really understand.”
Not only are these pets trained for the specific needs of their veteran, but the veterans are also a saving grace in the pets’ lives. The relationship goes both ways for Miele, who understands how important his role is in a dog’s life.
“Especially for me and having two rescue dogs, [Pets for Vets] is great because they are taking rescue dogs and establishing them as emotional support dogs,” Miele said. “Dogs that may not have made it out of the pound … and they are helping people that are going through a tough time or have been through a tough time.”
The addition of Minnie and Summer to Miele’s life has been transformative in more ways than one, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My entire schedule of every day revolves around my dogs, it’s a large responsibility that I wouldn’t give up for the world,” Miele said. “There’s a saying, ‘I just want to be the person my dog thinks I am’ and I think that’s a very relevant quote.”