HOUNDS4HEROES: Local War Vets Paired with Companion Dogs
MATTHEWS, N.C. - It's one of the most uncomplicated pleasures in life: throwing a tennis ball for a dog. For 28-year-old Marine Corporal Derek McQuain, it's much more. He says, "I can't sleep at night. I tend to worry a lot about little things. I get certain smells and sounds that bring me back to flashback mode."
McQuain, who now works as a certified pipe fabricator, suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He served 7 months in Afghanistan and 3 months in Iraq. He says, "We were always on the front line. Bullet sponges is what they would call us."
One week ago, the young veteran and his wife and son added "Cain" to their family. McQuain says, "Pet therapy is supposed to be pretty good for PTSD victims."
The 1-year-old German Shepherd mix is helping ease some of McQuain's anxiety. It also puts a smile on his face to watch his son, Titan, play with the dog. The match was made possible through Hounds4Heroes.
"Just petting a dog lowers your blood pressure,” says Jennifer Bennett. She helped create the non profit after leaving a job in the financial industry. She says seeing war vets paired with a companion dog is the most rewarding work she's ever done. "Although service dogs and companion animals are different, companion animals in my mind provide a great benefit,” says Bennett.
Cain, like all the dogs in Hounds4Heroes, is a rescue. But no matter their history, the animals all provide war vets with the one thing medicine cannot: "They'll always come up to you and love you,” says McQuain.
Hounds4Heroes started in March. Their goal is to match 30 dogs with war vets by the end of the year. So far, they've made two matches.
For more information, go to www.hounds4heroes.org