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Shelter dogs being trained to help veterans in West Palm Beach

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Posted at 11:13 AM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 11:52:51-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A special program with a South Florida animal adoption center is helping military veterans with trauma symptoms related to their service.

The Shelter to Service Dog program has now trained the first ever service dog helping patients at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center.

The dog’s name is Hero. He is a rottweiler and sheppard mix that greets patients inside the medical center.

Alana Leon is a Navy veteran dealing with military sexual trauma from what she describes as an incident with a fellow service member.

Seeing Hero at the VA is calming to Leon.

"Knowing that you can go up to him, he’s friendly, you can love on him, you’re like, 'OK, time to go in the office. Thanks for walking me. I’ll see you guys later.' That’s kind of really, incredibly important. It kind of lets you get a deep breath before you go into the doctor’s office," said Leon.

Hero was saved from possibly being euthanized at another animal shelter.

Having him and other dogs go through the Shelter to Service Dog program is fulfilling for Furry Friends President Pat Deshong.

"It's always great to see a dog happy and the adopter happy at any circumstance. But our veterans? I mean, who's more deserving?" said Deshong.

There are currently three more dogs on track to become service dogs at the adoption center in Jupiter.

Leon has adopted her own dog from the center as well.

"Having a companion and having people that i know care like furry friends to help me through this is incredibly important because I'm a part of their community, they're a part of my community," said Leon.

This story was originally published by Mike Trim at WPTV.