Philanthropic Support Extends FAU Veteran Canine Program
Philanthropic support from a generous local donor to Florida Atlantic is extending the Veteran Canine Rescue Mission (VCRM) housed within Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors (C-P.A.W.W.®) for a second year. This successful program matches veterans with specially selected shelter dogs to work together in a training regimen as a non-pharmaceutical treatment for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other similar conditions.
“’Saving two lives, with one rescue’ is the driving force behind this program, making it so important for programs like VCRM to continue,” the donor said. “I’m very passionate about programs that mutually benefit veterans and shelter dogs because these human-animal interactions can effectively decrease stress, provide physical exercise, and improve health and well-being.”
During the 2022 pilot year, the C-P.A.W.W. team matched 12 veteran canine pairs, achieving the program’s annual enrollment target. Housed within FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, C-P.A.W.W.’s VCRM is committed to positively impacting the human-animal bond, particularly as it affects veterans’ mental health and wellness. Utilizing an evidence-based approach, FAU students and alumni veterans, and veterans from the community were paired with dogs from the Humane Society of Broward County. Training was then provided by the veteran-owned and operated training organization, Happy With Dogs, to ensure that canines met the service, emotional support or companionship needs of their veterans.
“Having a veteran work with another veteran encourages congruent communication and trust building to achieve mutual respect between the program’s facilitators and veteran participants,” said Cheryl A. Krause-Parello, Ph.D., C-P.A.W.W.’s program director, associate dean for nursing research and scholarship, associate executive director and faculty fellow, Institute for Human Health and Disease Intervention, Schmidt Family Distinguished Professor, and Sharon Phillips Raddock Distinguished Professor of Holistic Health at FAU’s College of Nursing. “During the first year, we learned that understanding veteran culture and maintaining open lines of communication were key factors in our ability to provide effective support to this population. We have a strong team at FAU and with our community partners, comprised of individuals affiliated with the military or who are strongly connected with canines. These common traits unite our dedication.”
Among the first public-private partnerships for a novel program like the VCRM, FAU’s community partners were an essential component of the program’s pilot-year success. “Working together has allowed each individual partner to offer expertise and knowledge in their respective areas, which we used to help veterans and save the lives of dogs,” said Rebecca Pasko, founder of Happy With Dogs. “Among the most rewarding experiences this past year has been the individual lessons with the veterans, watching as they grow, learn and adapt with their canine.”
The goal for VCRM’s second year is to increase veteran recruitment and offer wraparound service support for canines, like vaccines and additional training. For veterans on a fixed income, these additional services could be a deciding factor in their decision to participate in the program.
“We are grateful for the continued program support which includes waiving the Humane Society of Broward County’s adoption fee, so that these funds go further,” said Krause-Parello. “We are also gathering scientific data to support changes in public policy so that service dogs are covered as a reimbursable medical expense for those recovering from invisible service-connected conditions.”