Returning from deployments in Iraq and Kuwait, war veteran Sgt. Doraliza Velez-Collazo found she could rarely leave her home, and was haunted by the worst things seen during her twelve years as an Army combat battlefield nurse, and suffering from her own traumatic brain injury suffered in Iraq.
The Los Angeles-based non-profit organization Pets for Vets heard of Doraliza's depression and PTSD. From them she received a three-year-old ten pound chihuahua named Lupita, who had undergone special training as a service dog.
Doraliza said, "I used to not get out of the house at all. Now I have to take her out. I get out of bed and put on some clothes."
Animal trainer Clarissa Black founded Pets for Vets in 2008 as a way of getting dogs that need a second chance into hands of veterans.
Clarissa said, "A lot of times, veterans come home feeling abandoned, and have a difficult time adjusting to civilian life. A lot of them tell me that they would just like someone to say thank you. Pets for Vets is that way to say thank you. Both the veteran and the pet have been through traumatic events, and together they can help each other heal."
A month after Lupita came into Doraliza's life, she said, "I kind of hold on to her little paw, listening to her breathing, and she looks at me, licking my hand, like, 'You're going to be OK, Mom.'"
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