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Nonprofit matches veterans with their perfect dog or cat

Celebrating Veterans: Matching local veterans with their perfect pet

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — An Indianapolis-area group is supporting veterans with the help of four-legged friends.

For veterans, dogs or cats can offer that unconditional love and companionship they need. Some are even transforming lives for veterans across central Indiana.

Navy veteran James Venable said his boxer, Tsum Tsum, offers the best kind of love. “She’s just a sweetheart. I can’t help but love her to death, you know.”

It’s unconditional and comes with lots of hugs, a match made in heaven. The two have created an inseparable bond thanks to the nonprofit Veteran’s Best Friend Indiana Inc. Michelle Goldner is the organization’s lead trainer.

“If I’ve got younger clients, you know, clients that come out of Iraq and Iran, wars, things like that, then we’ll look for younger dogs that are more energetic, things like that, but we try really hard to match the personality of the dog to the personality of the client,” Goldner said.

Venable said, “They placed the perfect dog with me, I think. She’s just an angel in every way and emotionally she’s my best buddy.”

The group focuses on connecting veterans to professional dog trainers with rescue dogs at no cost. They’ve been serving veterans for about eight years to help them overcome anxiety, loneliness, depression, or even PTSD symptoms. The group works with shelters and other organizations to help veterans find their perfect match.

Goldner said, “There’s so much science out there now about the benefit of a dog in someone’s life giving them a reason to get up in the morning, keeping them active, the unconditional love.”

Venable says it hasn’t been easy adjusting to life after serving in the Vietnam War. He says dogs have helped him get through difficult times. “You go from something serious, a war. You go from something serious like that, and you come back and everybody is so nonchalant, and you wonder where is your patriotism.”

Goldner said of veterans, “It’s an underserved community. Dealing with the federal government for anything is not easy.”

Venable says he’s thankful for the organization.

The group says it has been growing and looks forward to helping more veterans for years to come.

All this month, WISH-TV is proud to celebrate veterans for their service and sacrifice.