Making a Difference, One Shelter Dog, One Veteran, at a Time
Kendal Searer, a fourth-year biology major from Cincinnati, Ohio, and president of Ohio State’s Chapter of Pets for Vets — the nation’s first university student organization supporting Pets for Vets — is taking that organization to a new level of service with its first Mutt Strut on Oct. 29. Searer, whose involvement with Pets for Vets began in 2014, said, “I think service opportunities are an important part of a well-rounded education and preparing to be a responsible citizen. My goal is to become a veterinarian; I’ve worked with both animal shelters and veterinarians, so when I saw that Pets for Vets had openings on their executive board, I wanted to know more.”
Searer learned that this national organization pairs veterans with shelter animals and benefits both homeless dogs facing possible euthanasia and veterans facing a variety of problems adjusting to civilian life, and was hooked. “This opened a whole new world for me. I had no affiliation with vets before coming to college,” said Searer. Coincidentally, both the Columbus and Ohio State chapters of Pets for Vets had just been established in 2014.
Pets for Vets raises funds to pay for trainers, who spend 6-8 weeks with the dog and the family; they also pay for the animal's food. The first step is to go to the veteran’s house, talk to them about their needs and find out what kind of dog would be best for the veterans and their family.
“Because we are the sole support of the program, we’ve done fundraising nearly nonstop since 2014. We've held bake sales in dorms, at Pet People; set up doggie-kissing booths in the Ohio Union — one for Halloween (Howl O-Ween), another for Valentine’s Day (Smooch a Pooch); we've held a Vet Day donut sale and made dog toys for animal shelters," said Searer. Now, their goal is to focus on one major event — Mutt Strut. The first Mutt Strut is being held on Oct. 29 at Scioto Audubon Metro Park.
Searer, who graduates in May 2018, says, “Pets for Vets is my niche — to be able to actually see the impact of hands-on work with vets, knowing that we are making the vets and the animals lives better, is amazing. We literally become a part of their families."