A new partnership aims to help veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder, Traumatic Brain Injuries, or other debilitating conditions improve their lives with man's best friend.
"Most of them didn't make it... I am the only one who made it," said Robert Bowermaster, a Vietnam veteran.
Bowermaster remembers July 4, 1967, like it was yesterday.
"When I was shot, the two guys who were with me, left me because they thought I was dead," said Bowermaster. The enemy shot him and that shot nearly killed him. Bowermaster's service left him with PTSD.
Looking through pictures, Bowermaster pointed out the "fellow that saved" his life. Now, he has a new life saver -- a four-legged dog named Ella.
"PTSD you know it's a lot of downtime and there is time when that extra excitement hits and she keeps you calm when you know that excitement is coming, because you don't want to upset her," said Bowermaster.
LaVonne Bower is the founder of Paws and Warriors. She started by bringing her dog Oz to veterans organizations and saw the incredible benefits of pet therapy. The non-profit is now teaming up with Nate's Honor Animal Rescue to help pair 40 veterans with rescue dogs as companions. A grant from the Bill and Maryann Vinall Fund of the Manatee Community Foundation made this possible. The funds are for adoption fees, a starter kit, and a few weeks of training.
"It helps them keep their mind off of depressing thoughts, suicidal thoughts. It can give them purpose and make them not feel alone," said Bower.
"She'll lean right against me and it helps me a lot walking. You can take her with you and she's your partner," said Bowermaster.
As of this story airing, two veterans have adopted dogs, so there are still 38 available. Nate's Honor Animal Rescue's Adoption Team will help the qualified veterans find the perfect pet. Cats are an option for adoption as well.
For veteran application information, email LaVonne Bower at LaVonne@pawsandwarriors.com or call her at 941-962-3390.