(WSVN) - Life after service can be challenging for military veterans, but one South Florida university is hoping four-legged friends can change that. Kevin Ozebek has tonight’s 7 Spotlight.
Lenny and Lena are inseparable.
Lenny Polidor, FAU student: “Honestly, she’s a really good dog. She doesn’t bark. She’s really loving on people.”
Lenny is a junior at Florida Atlantic University. He adopted Lena through the FAU Canine Veteran Rescue Mission.
Cheryl Krause-Parello, FAU professor: “When I see them together, it’s just I know I am doing the right thing.”
Professor Cheryl Krause-Parello launched the program this year.
The aim is to connect veteran students and alumni with dogs needing forever homes.
Cheryl Krause-Parello: “I’ve seen the benefits of the human-animal bond, and I knew that our veteran students may be struggling.”
Every day in the U.S., an average of 17 veterans take their lives, but bringing in a canine companion can help battle depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD.
Cheryl Krause-Parello: “It’s someone to take care of. It gives them a sense of purpose, and I feel like if we can save one veteran from suicide, we’ve done the work that we need to do.”
Before Lenny enrolled at FAU, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
The transition from a structured life in uniform to being an independent college student has been difficult. Lenny suffers from PTSD.
Kevin Ozebek: “Was that the main symptom of PTSD for you?”
Lenny Polidor: “Paying attention, adapting to – especially with your surroundings or communicating with other people, because a lot of people don’t understand you.”
But now that Lenny has Lena, he’s finding it easier to adjust back to civilian life.
Rebecca Pasko: “She looked at me, tail’s excited, she wants to jump.”
Rebecca Pasko is the trainer for the program.
She owns Happy with Dogs, a Homestead dog training company.
Rebecca is also a Marine Corps veteran.
Rebecca Pasko: “I’m a veteran with PTSD, and so I understand that dogs are really getting me through it. I wouldn’t be where I am without my dogs.”
Rebecca Pasko (training Lena): “She moved on her own help with the hand. Perfect! So these are more service dog behaviors to help when he is in public.”
When Rebecca is in sight, Lena is incredibly obedient.
Rebecca Pasko: “She knows who to do what around.”
When she’s not, Lena is your typical puppy, licking and loving everyone in sight.
Every dog in the program comes from the Humane Society of Broward County, and you can see Lena was chosen because she is as sweet as can be.
Lenny Polidor: “She’s a great dog. I love her.”
When Lenny saw Lena at the Humane Society, it was love at first sight. A few weeks later, that bond is even stronger.
Lenny Polidor: “The sky is the limit, to be honest. I feel like I could teach her anything, to be honest.”
Now, as this veteran combats PTSD, he’s not alone. He has Lena, his cuddly comrade.
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