ROANOKE, Va. – A nationwide program is helping veterans heal while helping pets find new homes.
Pets for Patriots helps cover fees and medical bills so veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues can take home a furry friend.
Brian Strongeen is a veteran dealing with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and Bayley is the dog that saved him.
"Having that bond and relationship where you're taking care of the animal and at the same time, the animal is taking care of you, gives you a foothold," said Brian.
Brian spent 4 ½ years on active duty in the Army. He served in the United States and overseas. But when he returned, the transition was tough. During his struggle, Brian's uncle suggested he consider adopting a dog. Then Brian visited Angels of Assisi.
"I saw a flyer there about the Pets for Patriots program and I thought 'This is interesting. I should look more into this,'" said Brian.
So he did look more into it, and he found that Pets for Patriots would help him through the process of adoption financially and emotionally. Angels of Assisi was ready to help, too.
"Having that responsibility and companionship, someone that depends on them and loves them, really helps them get through the traumatic things they've seen during deployment," said Matthew Brown, director of lifesaving operations at Angels of Assisi.
Soon after, he found Bayley sitting in a cage in the corner of the shelter.
"She jumped up; wrapped her paws around my waist almost like she was hugging me," said Brian.
Bayley faced some health issues during those early days, but Brian was ready and willing to nurse her back to health. Months later, Brian has stopped having to increase his medications and is feeling happier. Bayley is healthy, active and social.
"Some days I have great days; some days I have really low days. But knowing she's always here when I come home -- it's always nice to know even if I'm having a bad day, she's going to be there," said Brian.
Angels of Assisi will be relaunching its Pets for Patriots program at Barktoberfest, an event at the Vinton War Memorial Oct. 27. Veterans will be able to adopt a pet for free.
To learn more about the Pets for Patriots program, click here.