Comfort Dog travels cross country for new home with El Paso Veteran

Retired police dog Ava traveled to El Paso to become a local vet's new friend.

Some El Paso-area veterans are finding the best way to heal war wounds is with a four-legged friend.

Ava arrived Tuesday at the El Paso Veterans Affairs Health Care System, all the way from Pennsylvania.

Ava, a retired police dog, was reporting for a new kind of assignment.

"Hopefully we can work together. She can sense when I'm feeling low, when I'm feeling down," said Ricardo Martinez, a Vietnam War veteran from El Paso.

Martinez says he's been through it all.

"PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anger management, depression," Martinez said.

He also lost his wife to cancer. He said psychiatrists at the VA gave him a prescription for a service dog.

"If you get a prescription for a service dog, you can't just go to Walmart and say give me my dog. You have to go through an organization," Glenda Herrin, owner of Healing Hounds, said.

Martinez got in touch with an organization called Canine Wounded Heroes two months ago

"We try to fit the dog to the veteran's situation," said John Foster, an El Paso liaison for the organization who is also a veteran and speaks from experience.

"They give you a sense of duty and companionship that you can't get from anybody else," Foster said.

Canine Wounded Heroes gives homeless dogs a new family and former soldiers a chance at survival.

"Veteran suicides are too high a rate and veterans with service dogs commit suicide at a lower rate than those without service animals," Foster said.

A furry prescription with loving side effects.

"This is the VA there's probably 5,000 people here or more that need a dog every single day," Herrin said.

Martinez said he's looking forward to building a relationship with the new gal in his life.

"I have a big backyard. She's going to love it and I know we are going to work together to adjust," Martinez said.

All the expenses to get Ava to Martinez were taken care of, but there is one thing Martinez will have to do on his own.

"Got to teach her Spanish though," Martinez said.

Herrin said Ava is not a certified service dog yet, but has the potential to be. Right now Ava is considered a comfort animal.

Bens Pet Pantry in El Paso offers pet food to low-income residents and also helps veterans feed their service and comfort animals.

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