CARTER COUNTY, TN (WJHL)- Army veteran Chris Prince recently started a program called “Veterans’ Buddies” to help veterans adopt animals for free from the Carter County/ Elizabethton Animal Shelter. Through the program veterans can also get free training, and even get help preparing their home for a pet.
“All of the counties in the Northeastern part of Tennessee have high percentages of veterans in population and of those veterans there are in Carter County for example, there is an excess of 500 that are living below the poverty line,” Prince said.
Prince said they’ve also developed a pet pantry, where veterans can get free pet food, and even medication for the pet from local veterinarians.
Since the program started this spring, they’ve already had some touching stories of rescue, Prince shared one example of a veteran who recently adopted a kitten, “He was having some terrible problems with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) nightmares and other kinds of issues and since he’s had his kitten he called me just two days ago and said ‘Since I’ve had my kitten I haven’t had a single nightmare.’ That’s what we’re looking to do,” Prince said.
“It is unconditional love, support. You don’t have to explain that to an animal what is going on internally, where you’ve been, what you’re going through,” Veteran Kaeti Lanzarotta said.
Lanzarotta returned from combat with physical reminders of something she’ll never forget.
“I did over four tours to Iraq and on the last one I was blown up by an IED…I’ve still got shrapnel in my upper back and a titanium plate holds together my ankle” Lanzarotta said. “I cannot drive. I have to get in the left-hand lane if there’s a car on the side of the road in Iraq cars are used cars as IEDs, loud noises, fireworks.”
She recently rescued a dog she named Zeus and trained him to be a service dog to help her with her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and mobility.
“If there is a PTSD incident or anything else he can immediately recognize,” Lanzarotta said. “He’ll either immediately come to my side and block me from continuing on…He will lead me out and or he will actually cover my body with his body.”
Now she’s helping train dogs for veterans who would like help after adopting a pet through the Veterans’ Buddies program.
For Lanzarotta, she said having a pet not only means physical support, it’s an renewed meaning to life.
“It does give you a purpose it really does,” Lanzarotta said.
If you would like to get involved with Veterans’ Buddies or adopt an animal through this program, you can call 423.218.2159 or visit www.vetsbuds.com.
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