Vets and Pets Book Shows How Shelter Dogs and Veterans Help Each Other Heal

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Shelter animals and veterans have a lot in common. Both need to overcome their loneliness and pain, and in a new book called, "Vets and Pets: Wounded Warriors and the animals That Help Them Heal," their stories of love and hope are told in detail.

It's a love story begging to be told. Fifteen years ago, U.S. Army Captain Leslie Nicole Smith was placed on what the United States military calls, "imminent death status" as she fought for her life at Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Her massive infection was so severe, that her family was told to get her affairs in order and make her funeral arrangements. Little did Leslie know at the time that a golden Labrador mix, named Issac, was waiting to die in an animal shelter. Because of Isaac's behavior problems, he was scheduled to be euthanized; his death was imminent, as well.

Leslie Nicole Smith is one of hundreds of thousands of veterans across the U.S., who have suffered both the physical and invisible wounds of war, and who, because of adopting shelter dogs and cats, have literally turned their lives around. For the veteran, these wounded animals become their lifelines, and for the shelter dogs and cats, they escape their own imminent death status and find a forever home.

Beth Zimmerman, founder and executive director of the nonprofit, Pets for Patriots, knows first-hand the power of the human/animal bond. She left a financially rewarding career as a business strategist because she wanted to do something to help veterans, and at the same time, save shelter cats and dogs from a life of death or prolonged homelessness. "I wanted to find ways to overcome the obstacles of bringing shelter animals and veterans together," Zimmerman said. "Across the country there are veterans who need a new pet friend, and there are millions of animals who are overlooked, undervalued and facing death if they are not adopted. I had to do something to help."

In the new book, "Vets and Pets: Wounded Warriors and the Animals That Help Them Heal," (Skyhorse Publishing, September 2017), authors Dava Guerin and Kevin Ferris, with help from Zimmerman, told fifteen stories about the power of the bonds between veterans and their shelter cats and dogs as well as horses, pot belly pigs and even birds of prey. "It was enlightening to learn how many animals have medical and other issues, and are almost forgotten as they live out their lives in sanctuaries or shelters. But, when you pair them with wounded veterans, there is a special bond that in indescribable. It is a bond that changes both the animals' and the veterans' lives forever," said Guerin.

Take, for example, veterinarian and Army and Air Force veteran, Dr. Shawn Dunn, who through Pets for Patriots was able to adopt, Crixus. She read about this puppy's plight in a Detroit newspaper and had to help. Crixus is a German Shepard pit bull-mix, who was violently shot and left for dead on a Detroit street. Because of the shooting, he had his leg amputated leg, and suffered from major health issues. Dunn knew she would be the perfect adoptive parent. She contacted the Humane Society of Detroit, applied for Crixus's adoption through Pets for Patriots, and today Crixus is healthy, and happily living with Dunn and her family on a sprawling farm in Michigan. "God sent him to me when I needed him the most," Dunn said.

Zimmerman added that there are currently millions of animals waiting to be adopted in shelters across the country. "This holiday season, I hope everyone, not just veterans, will consider adopting a shelter dog or cat. Not only will they be giving an animal a forever home, but they will experience a love like no other," said Zimmerman.

For more information on Pets for Patriots, visit: A portion of the proceeds from Vets and Pets will be donated to Pets for Patriots. The book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie books and in retail outlets across the country.

Contact: Mike Campbell, Skyhorse Publishing (212) 643-6816

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