War Vets, Shelter Dogs Heal Together in Program

Soldiers with PTSD find comfort, inspiration in needy pooches

WASHINGTON — Dave Sharpe was troubled by thoughts he could not share after he returned from a tour in Iraq. “I found myself waking up in the middle of the night, punching holes in walls, kicking and beating the refrigerator door,” he said.

Then one day, the former Air Force senior airman went with a friend to a local pit bull rescue and took home a puppy, Cheyenne. Next time he found himself kicking something, “I saw this puppy, cocking her head, looking up at me, like, what are you doing?”

Finally, Sharpe had someone he could open up to. “I froze, I put down my drink, I picked her up and laid with her in my bed,” he said. “I cried and I told her the whole story. I didn’t feel judged.”

The experience inspired Sharpe, who lives in Washington’s Virginia suburbs, to start Pets2Vets, a group that pairs veterans with homeless pets by arranging adoptions of shelter animals. It has made two or three matches a week since its start in October.

One of the goals of Pets2Vets is to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder. Sharpe says that while a few groups provide veterans with service dogs, many PTSD and traumatic brain injury patients…