By Amanda A. Taylor
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
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
"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
"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