Local program gives new life to veterans and homeless pets

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A new program is changing the lives of returning veterans by helping them adjust to daily life after leaving a war zone.

Greg Sexton, a Staff Sergeant with the Army Reserves, couldn't leave behind memories of the war in Afghanistan when he returned home in 2011. He had lost interest in daily life and felt disconnected from his family. During a visit to the VA hospital in Indianapolis, he saw a pamphlet about a dog therapy program.

Pets Healing Vets through the Humane Society for Hamilton County led Sexton to Patton, his black Labrador.

"She definitely understands what I have gone through because ever since I have adopted her she has been with me she has not let me out of her sight," Sexton said.

The program, which pairs veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with shelter animals, was started by veteran Justin Moreseth and his dog Sampson.

Like Sexton, Moreseth suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition which consumed him after the birth of his son. Sampson and the family's other dog Lucy has helped Moreseth turn the corner.

The Moreseth's came up with the idea to start the program to help other vets in need. The Humane Society for Hamilton County quickly facilitated.

Shelter director Rebecca Stevens has been helping the Moreseth's every step of the way. "We want these men and women to have something that is going to help change their lives and give them comfort and it's really very little in the scheme of things we can give them for what they have done," Stevens said.

Just as many of the veterans returning home feel broken so do shelter dogs. That's why the program is really saving two lives.

"They tend to want to also save a dog who has been through something traumatic so it's very rewarding to see that match happen," Stevens said.

A match that has made all the difference to Greg Sexton.

Pets Healing Vets is open and free of cost to any Hoosier veteran with a medical referral. Visit the Pets Healing Vets web site for more information.