It’s widely known the impact animals have on our well-being can be life changing.
A special SPCA program is giving American heroes a chance to interact with our furry friends.
Not only is it giving people a new leash on life, it’s giving them purpose.
Take a peek inside the Erie County SPCA and it’s hard not to crack a smile… people visiting in hopes of expanding their families, kids learning about animals and volunteers caring for those looking for a forever home.
“Come here girl… come here jenny,” said Gary Gonzalez, the program coordinator.
It’s hard to believe people like Gary have fought the toughest of battles.
“Part of my own personal healing journey has been animals,” said Gary.
Gary Gonzalez is the “Paws and Patriots” coordinator.
He’s a Persian Gulf War Veteran.
“At first I wasn’t so comfortable being around other people. That’s a classic case with PTSD, you tend to isolate yourself. So animals were my gateway so to speak for me coming out again… out of my shell,” said Gary.
For some, warming up to the animals is gradual.
“It sometimes is tough getting to know them but once they get your trust, then you know just taking the harness out and putting the harness on … they started jumping and going crazy just knowing you’re taking them out,” said Judy Allyn, a Paws and Patriots volunteer.
Naturally overtime, the bond provides a healing relationship.
“They’ve taught me among other things — they have taught me the ability to feel again. And I’ll tell you without feeling there is no healing,” said Gary.
The “Paws and Patriots” program gets veterans who are having a hard time readjusting out of their homes.
The volunteers care, feed, and play with the animals.
“I want to take you home! Aww… thank you,” said a volunteer while playing with the animals.
It gives people a sense of accomplishment and boosts their self-esteem.
“When you walk outside you’re like ok I did something. I feel better,” said Gary Capage, a volunteer.
“It does tremendous wonders for the veterans,” said Gary Gonzalez.
And like Gary, some of the animals have had a hard past.
“So, in a sense you have a wounded animal and a wounded warrior coming together to help heal each other,” said Gary.
It’s the true story of man’s best friend and their power to provide purpose.