"It's an absolute thrill to celebrate our 500th honorable adoption, because this number represents real lives of veterans and their new pet friends," said Beth Zimmerman, founder and executive director of Pets for Patriots.
"While we take pride in reaching this milestone, we have many more lives to save and a tremendous demand to bring our unique program to more communities across the country. The impact these dogs and cats are making on veterans with psychological conditions such as PTSD, as well as those coping with deployment, transition to civilian life or simple loneliness, is real, enduring and nothing short of remarkable."
The 500th adoption came through the Virginia Beach SPCA, a partner organization of Pets for Patriots since 2012. John Stevens IV, a Navy officer, realized days before his wedding that he was being deployed. He promised his soon-to-be wife that he would get her a pet to keep her company.
They fell in love with an eight-year-old dog named "Hip-Hop," whose name has since been changed to "Rusty." Adding to the excitement, John's deployment was rescinded, allowing him to spend time with both Rusty and his new bride.
Founded in 2009, Pets for Patriots currently operates across 35 states with adoptions from coast-to-coast. The program serves veterans and active duty military men, women and their families.
The organization's first adoption came on July 27, 2010 in Fort Wayne, Ind. when a Navy veteran adopted a three-year-old cat named "Diamond" to help keep him company and ease his wife's depression. Since that time, other notable adoptions include:
- A three-tour Navy combat veteran, who is severely wounded and develops PTSD as the result of an IED explosion in Afghanistan, describes the adopted dog who "chose him" as "one of the best medicines for me."
- An Air Force veteran gives hope and a final home to a dog with terminal cancer.
- A Vietnam veteran learns that a man's best friend is a cat, not a canine, and saves a special needs cat.
Pets for Patriots continues to partner with new shelters and veterinarians across the country. To learn more about the organization, visit www.petsforpatriots.org.