Vets and Pets, local VA center continuing pet therapy

IRON MOUNTAIN — At the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center, volunteers sign up to help the veterans with pet therapy.

For over 15 years, volunteers have brought their dogs to the Medical Center to help the veterans. All of the dogs have been certified in pet therapy and have undergone obedience training. Some come once a month, others every week. Volunteers go door to door to ask the veterans if they want a visit from some furry friends. The pets bring happiness to the vets as well as help them relief some stress.

“The animal’s presence can help some people come out of their shell, people who normally wouldn’t necessarily be social. Just having the animals present and petting them and that sort of thing can release serotonin and make them happy,” said recreation therapist Jesse Kerley.

“I was elated that I got to pet a dog, you know. I always welcome them to spend time with me,” said Richard Marenger.

Many veterans have pets of their own but don’t get to see them as much as they would like.

“I have a Japanese Chin. I don’t see her anymore being here. Sometimes my caregiver will bring her in. And that’s good therapy, having a pet,” added Marenger.

And for as much as the vets enjoy the visits, the dogs seem to like it just the same.
To learn more about registering your pet in the Pet Therapy Program at the Oscar G Johnson VA Medical Center, call Voluntary Services at 774-3300 ext. 32780.