BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Veterans are able to adopt a dog for free at Bangor's Humane Society. Its part of their "Pets to Farmer Vets" initiative.
The humane society has teamed up with "United Farmer Veterans of America," a Maine organization that focuses on helping veterans that may be struggling with something like PTSD get help through farming. Executive Director Jerry Ireland is a retired Army sergeant who has struggled with PTSD himself.
"For me it was pretty difficult, I lost almost everything," he said. "Today, people wouldn't look at me as someone that was homeless and living in his truck for several months."
Ireland was able to cope with his PTSD through an unexpected outlet.
"Four years ago, if you had told me that farming was something that I was going to do, I would have said you're crazy," Ireland said. "It really became a really big part of me putting my life back together."
Another big factor for Ireland has been his dogs.
"When you don't particularly want other people around, that companion from a dog is invaluable," he said. That bond is what prompted the "Pets to Farmer Vets" initiative.
"They end up finding out that the companionship with that dog has a greater opportunity to actually help them," Ireland said. "We have a lot of dogs that need homes, a lot of veterans that need companions — ultimately could end up as service dogs — and it's a great fit."
The initiative is specifically for veterans that live on farms that could benefit from a dog and the support that the companion brings. The cost of up to six weeks of training for the dog would also be covered.
Ireland knows its not the perfect solution, but its a start.
"I don't think there's a magic wand that we can just put a dog in veterans pocket and everything will be alright," he said. "But unbeknownst to them, it will actually lead to a lot of the steps, necessary tools to deal with PTSD and other mental health issues."
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