COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Rescuing pets to help heal central Ohio veterans and first responders is the mission of the local nonprofit Pets for Heroes.

The organization trains rescue dogs to become companion animals for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stress, anxiety, or a traumatic brain injury.

Heather Brown is a dog trainer who understands with a little instruction, a rescue dog can have a meaningful life with a greater purpose.

“It’s giving them that second chance that they deserve and making a difference in a veteran or a first responders life,” Brown said.

A life providing love to a veteran or first responder who might be struggling with the burdens they face when they get home from work.

“It’s the comfort, it’s having the dog there with you,” Brown added.

Volunteers foster the rescue dogs for about three months while they undergo training before handing the leash over to their new companion.

“They’re going to learn basic obedience, they’re going to learn sit, down, stay, come,” Brown said. “They’re going to learn how to walk on a leash, they’re going to lay at your feet.”

“It’s very gratifying,” said Cheryl Rankin, a board member and volunteer coordinator for Pets for Heroes. “I mean, just to know the impact, the difference we make in their lives.”

She fosters dogs as well as coordinates events to raise awareness for the organization.

“One of our veterans, he contemplated suicide and he was very introverted and now, he’ll go to schools and talk about his experience with his dog,” Rankin said.

Brown’s husband, Darren, is a Navy veteran, and Stella is the companion dog they are now training to make a difference in the community.

“She is actually working on being a therapy dog, so we want to be able to take her into hospitals, libraries, nursing homes,” Brown said. “We want her to work with kids, seniors and veterans.”

As veterans and first responders put their lives at risk protecting and rescuing others, Pets for Heroes wants to come to their aid…bringing new meaning to the question, “Who rescued who?”

 “I worked with a veteran that had night terrors, and I got an email, a dog I trained for him, he was having a night terror and she laid down on him to help calm him, and it just brings tears to your eyes to know that you’re helping people like that,” Brown said.

To learn more about the organization or to become a volunteer, visit: