Pets for Vets, a national nonprofit organization, recently started a Las Vegas chapter.
The service interviews veterans and matches them with their perfect companion pet.
The pets are trained to help with issues plaguing the vets, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.
Stephen Pipkin served in the Air Force for seven years. He recently moved to Las Vegas from Los Angeles and has been feeling quite lonely.
He found out about the Pets for Vets program on the news in another city and decided to look into it here.
"Being a veteran that has some issues, I thought it might be good to fill out an application," Pipkin said.
On Labor Day, Pipkin was paired up with Diamond, a lab mix.
Nicole Mantu helped launch the Las Vegas chapter of the nonprofit. She wanted to help local vets suffering and homeless pets, too.
All the vets go through an interview process to make sure they get their perfect match.
"We don't just match them with any dog. We want to have something that is specific to what their environment is, what their emotional needs are, what kind of support they need, and we tailor the training to that," Mantu said.
Trainer Janet Edberg fostered Diamond, a lab mix, from a local shelter. She trained her to sense when Pipkin starts to feel overwhelmed, stressed or anxious.
"She will sense it before he really feels it, and then she'll alert him. And I'll show him how to calm down with her and how to calm it down before it gets out of control," Edberg said.
Pipkin said he's looking forward to getting out of the house more and maybe connecting with fellow dog lovers.
Everything is free for the veterans, including training, the animal, and they get a month's worth of food and all the starter supplies needed.
Edberg said therapy dogs aren't recognized for these types of issues through the Veterans Administration, but the nonprofit and other groups are working to change that.
To find out more about Pets for Vets, including ways to donate to the cause, volunteer or apply for an animal, click here.
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