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PAWS For Vets
By Amanda A. Taylor
published December 2016

Grant For Veterans Helps Match Companion Animals With Those Who Served Our Country

In honor of Rio Grande Valley veterans, The Laurie P. Andrews PAWS Center has utilized a Veterans with Disabilities Grant from a private donor which enables veterans with at least a 10 percent disability to adopt any of the pets available at the center for free.

Adoption fees are typically $100 for cats, $120 for kittens, $150 for dogs and $170 for puppies. All fees, which are completely waived for veterans, includes spay or neuter operation, microchip for identification, first series of vaccinations and a month of free pet accident insurance.

Joel Garza, a United States Army veteran, said he heard about the grant from a friend who knew he had just lost his dog. "A friend of mine called me because he knew my dog had just died," the 67-year-old said. "I had been looking for an Australian shepherd mix for a while and when I went in to PAWS, a staff member told me she had the perfect dog for me." Jacklyn Philippus, Adoption Specialist, led Garza to Whiskey, a 2-year-old Catahoula/shepherd mix. "I really liked the dog when I saw him," Garza said. "We have sheep at the house and I wanted a smaller dog, so I knew he was perfect."

After filling out paperwork and showing proof of disability from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Whiskey went home with his new family on Nov. 10, just in time for Veterans Day.

Garza said he was drafted in to the U.S. Army in 1967, immediately after graduating from high school. "It was just part of life back then," he said on being drafted, "all my buddies were getting drafted and I didn't want my friends to get out before I did, so I went in and made sure I was drafted too. I wanted us all to come home around the same time, but some of us didn't make it back."

Garza said programs like these are important for veterans because they are at a higher risk of developing emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety. "Things like this are good for vets because some veterans get very lonely and if you have a dog, you can talk to it and hang out with it and it will make your day happier," the San Juan native said. "I'm lucky to live with my wife, but there are some veterans that don't have anyone. I walk with Whiskey and turn him loose in the yard so he can run around, but he always comes back to me when I call him."

A member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Garza is considered legally blind with only 15 percent of his vision left. Although he is unable to drive, Garza says he knows his property well enough to do work around his land. "I've always wanted a dog to bond with and sit with me," Garza said. "I've had other dogs before that wouldn't listen to me but Whiskey already responds to me. In the mornings when he sees me he starts barking because he wants me to let him out of his kennel. I think Whiskey and I are going to do great."

Whiskey was just one of the many adoptable dogs available at The Laurie P. Andrews PAWS Center, a no-kill animal adoption and education facility in Edinburg.

For more information on the Veterans with Disabilities Grant or information on how to adopt, call (956) 720-4563 or visit pvaconline.com.

U.S. Army veteran Joel Garza with newly adopted Whiskey on Nov. 10, at The Laurie P. Andrews PAWS Center in Edinburg.
Joel Garza with Whiskey at his new home on Nov. 15