Dogs Become Vets’ BFFs & Then Some

We can all agree with the adage that “dogs are man’s best friend.” However, for veterans finishing up their tours, certain dogs can be much more than that. The ‘Pets and Vets’ organization headed up by Tony La Russo’s Animal Rescue Foundation [ARF] in Walnut Creek, California assists vets with PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder]. His program allows for both parties to learn how to become the ‘best that they can be.’ Separately they are less — together they become more than whole.


Tony La Russo’s program is unique in its approach. Instead of bringing in outside instructors, his training teaches the veterans ‘how’ to train their dogs and turn them into service dogs. The canines selected for this program are rescued from shelters, and their human counterparts are those suffering from the traumas of war. In essence, this program is saving lives on both ends of the leash.


Seeking a 'Few Good Dogs'

Not all shelter dogs make the cut. The first step in determining if they have the ‘chops,' when the pair both the pet and the vet in foster homes similar to the vets’ actual home. For instance, if the veteran has children, the training quarters becomes a foster with children. If the dog does well under conditions that replicate the veterans everyday life, they then move on.

About 80 percent of the dogs don’t make the grade. They exhibit behaviors that might be OK in a regular home setting, but not necessarily for the consistently difficult work of a service dog. The dogs who wash out become part of ARF’s “genpop” — general population. The organization will eventually find them a good home, just not with this program.

History of ARF

Headquartered in Walnut Creek, California, ARF is a privately funded 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization supported by donors in all 50 states and internationally, receiving no government funding. In 2018, the organization earned the highest possible rating – four stars – from Charity Navigator for the 11th consecutive year. Only one percent of charities reach this milestone, and ARF is proud that 86 cents of every dollar goes directly to its programs. 

Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) is an award-winning, nationally recognized leader for its unique mission of "People Rescuing Animals…Animals Rescuing People.®"

Founded in 1991, ARF has rescued more than 39,000 cats and dogs and has expanded its national outreach and education programs. ARF elevates pets in our society, enhances connections, and transforms the bond between people and animals.

Primary Source: Animal Rescue Foundation