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    Pet therapy: It’s not just for Soldiers

    Soldiers helping VET

    Photo By Spc. Elizabeth Johnson | Texas Army National Guard Soldiers play with puppies found after Hurricane Harvey in a...... read more read more



    Story by Pvt. Elizabeth Johnson 

    128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    As Hurricane Harvey relief efforts continue, National Guard Soldiers from across the United States are helping Texas residents, both of the two-legged and the four-legged varieties. Guardsmen have assisted the Veterinary Emergency Team with caring for the frightened animals.
    Soldiers from multiple locations have participated in spending time with the animals, according to Jennifer G. Gauntt, a communications specialist from Texas A&M University and a member of VET, working out of FEMA Regional support area, Sept. 9, 2017, in Beaumont, Texas.
    “We see people walking past and they'll stop and kind of chat for a minute. ‘So we heard you have animals. We hear you have puppies and then they play with the puppies,” she said.
    The Soldiers walk the dogs, play with them, and some even help bathe them.
    “It's our responsibility to make sure that these members of people's families are well taken care of,” said Gauntt.“We call it puppy therapy just because it makes us feel good,” she continued.
    “Puppy therapy is like dog therapy in a regular world,” said Dr. Debra L. Zoran, a medical operations advisor for VET and Small Animal Science professor at Texas A&M University. “People need to have a living being to care for, to be around, to de-stress,” she said. “The animals have been a benefit to the Soldiers.”
    Gauntt added that puppy therapy “is just a way to kind of take a moment away from everything else that we’re experiencing.”
    “I actually had one Soldier tell me that pets make him feel at home,” said Gauntt.
    It’s a known fact that animals can assist with relaxation, said Zoran.
    “They can just have a pet to be around, takes their mind off what they are going through, takes their mind off some of the horrible things they've seen, takes their mind off of all the stuff they're gonna have to deal with in the coming days and weeks,” she said.
    “Pets are a big part of our lives so we love them,” said Gauntt. “When disasters happen it comes with consequences so it's been really great to see people interact with these pets that we’ve found, not only because these pets are scared and it makes them feel better, but it makes us feel better.”
    Zoran had similar thoughts to the interactions between humans and pets. “It can be kind of therapeutic to Soldiers and people,” she said. “It takes the heartbreak down, takes the blood pressure down.”
    Families affected by Hurricane Harvey have lost their homes and have a lot to do to get back to the life they are used to.
    “We love our pets,” said Gauntt. “These people, their lives have been destroyed. While they love their pet, their top priority is rebuilding their lives.”
    Zoran said people who have lost their homes and lost everything, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will hold onto their animals for a long time so parents can claim them. Animals who do not have a parent or owner are up for adoption and some Soldiers have expressed an interest in taking some home.
    Gauntt said that Soldiers have expressed interest in adopting some of the animals and taking them home. People interested in adopting an animal can track them online because they are chipped. After 30 days if the animal is not claimed by its owner, it will be up for adoption.
    Zoran said the National Guard was a huge help in the animal rescues at Fort Bend.
    There were two pit bull puppies, in Fort Bend, that Soldiers adopted and took home, said Gauntt
    “One of the young gentleman rescued a puppy out of a trapped home surrounded by flood water and brought it to our base,” said Zoran. “We fixed the puppy up and it turned out to be healthy. He worked with the local sheltering agency and was able to adopt that puppy into his family.”

    The SPCA, at the Ford Arena in Beaumont, Texas, picked up the dogs and cats once they were well enough to travel, which is where animals not claimed can be picked up for adoption.
    “I can only imagine the fear that people have when they lose their animal in a storm like this,” said Gauntt. “So we are very grateful to be able to come into these communities. Really glad to have the Army helping out.”



    Date Taken: 09.09.2017
    Date Posted: 09.12.2017 12:02
    Story ID: 247902
    Location: BEAUMONT, TX, US 

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    Pet therapy: It’s not just for Soldiers