Online Originals: Pitt County Animal Shelter starts new program for veterans

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‘K9 to the Corps’ is a new program through the Pitt County Animal Shelter that aims to match companion dogs with veterans. 

Holly Wynn is the founder of the program and got the idea while volunteering.

“I volunteer at the VA a couple times a week with my dog,” said Wynn. “I had multiple people coming up to me asking, ‘How do I get a dog? I want to do this.'”

Companion dogs have been proven to be beneficial to a person’s health. 

“You’re going to be outside exercising more. It lowers depression. It lowers cholesterol and high blood pressure,” said Michele Whaley, the director of Pitt County Animal Services. 

In addition to health benefits, dogs can improve overall quality of life.

“You can see confidence being built, you can see great joy coming from them,” said Wynn. “You have a dog from a shelter whose desperately looking for an owner and a veteran who’s desperately looking for a buddy, and when the two of them merge, it’s really a great program.”

The program helps veterans to find companions in not only dogs but other veterans through training classes at Top Dog Academy.

“The idea is to help the guy select a dog, come to classes and train it, but through classes, that’s where the guys get the time together, and all of a sudden you’ve got a buddy to take your dog for a walk with or get together and do stuff,” said Drake Parker, owner and operator of Top Dog Academy.

An important part of the process is to have the veterans train the dogs themselves in order to create a bond.

According to Wynn, this is a community supported program meaning the dog will come at no cost to the veteran. Veterinarians’ offices and pet supply stores are excited to donate their services and products to give back to the veterans, Wynn said. 

Parker said this is a good opportunity for veterans who may be holding off on getting a dog to make the leap. 

“This is for the guys who want to get a dog but are a little hesitant. Now we got a chance to help you do it right,” said Parker.

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