Pets for Vets Unites Marine with Dog

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DALLAS — Operation Kindness is back at it again. The no-kill Animal Shelter in Carrollton just paired Marine Steven Osteen with Hazel, a 3-year-old dog.

“I did 17 years in the Marine Corps and when I got out, I realized I had a lot of issues that I had never dealt with before,” Osteen said. “I heard about Pets for Vets. I filled out an application, and I was contacted by Amber and the folks there.”

“Pets for Vets is a program inside of Operation Kindness that specifically focuses on shelter dogs,” Amber Jester, Certified Animal Behavior Specialist, said. “We pull shelter dogs and then train them to become companion animals for veterans with PTSD. We train them to the CGC standard, which is Canine Good Citizen and that means they are recognized by the AKC as a good dog.  It’s a great program because it kind of gives both individuals a second chance.”

“She’s helped with nightmares,” Osteen explained.  “Hazel does a lot of different things for me, but I think her biggest thing is that she gets me talking about her, instead of talking about me.  I used to have really closed off days. I didn’t want to leave the house, I didn’t want to go outside. She helps me get out there and be a public person again. You can ask my wife, it’s made a night and day difference in my overall quality of life.”

“Having Hazel in our family has given us our husband back, and the kids their father back,” his wife, Carol Osteen said.  “Having Hazel allows him a way back to his kids. For the first time, he’s been able to take our kids camping, he goes to school events, he comes to work. At the end of the day, Hazel gave him back as a husband and a father.”

“She’s really a social buffer. A lot of the anxiety and crowds, and things like that, she helps a great deal with that. And as you can tell, she’s a people person because there she goes,” he smiled as Hazel trotted away for some treats.

“It seemed like it took forever to find the right dog. It’s kind of like when you get married, you find the right person, you find the right dog.  For Hazel and I, it was an instant connection," Osteen said. "North Texas has a lot of veterans out there, and a lot of them need help, and maybe a lot of them don’t know that programs like operation kindness or pets for vets exist.  If this story can help another veteran to kind of come out of their shell and reach out for help, then that’s great."