04/27/2011 11:09 am ET | Updated Jun 27, 2011

Pets Helping to Heal Our Nation's Vets

2011-04-27-DaveandCheyenne200x300.jpgFor those of us who have pets, we understand how important their companionship can be. For those who don't, animals look like a messy liability. For Veterans, returning from duty with Post Dramatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), they know something altogether different.

Founder of P2V, Dave Shape has given us an insight into just how vital his dog Cheyenne has become in his life, and how others can benefit from the same scenario. While serving overseas in the Air Force he tells Animal Fair how he lost many friends and brothers in arms during combat, and several more to suicide after returning home. Even with a loving and supporting family, Dave still had some trouble turning off the kill switch, and found himself looking for a fight in order to relax. In his own words,

"I did not seek help right away and was undiagnosed for nearly 8 years. Shortly after I came home I started punching holes in walls, having nightmares, distancing myself from family and friends, having cold sweats, starting fights with strangers for no reason..."

Common among men who return from war, PTSD affects countless individuals and is the cause of approximately 18 suicides each day across America. Dave's condition is a natural one in response to war and we need to remember that he is not alone. What does set him apart is how he deals with PTSD. After living 8 years without being diagnosed, he decided to go to a pit bull rescue with a friend one day and see what they had, and that's when his journey home started.

There in the back of the cage was a beat up little girl named Cheyenne. Used as a fighting dog, this puppy was covered in scars and didn't want to be with anyone anymore. When Dave called her, she walked over; sniffed his hand; and promptly walked away. It was then that Dave knew he had found his soul mate.

As his stress and frustration of the past grew, Dave found himself punching holes in walls one day only to look up and see Cheyenne sitting calmly; starring at him. There was no opinion, no agenda, no lessons- just a simple stare to see what he will do next. This was the switch that enabled Dave to turn it all off and face the question; what will he do next?

Finally, someone; albeit a dog, who was willing to just listen. Cheyenne was willing to just accept Dave as he was, and try to understand what he was going through. There was no judgment, no instruction, no excuses, just the question; 'Where will we go from here.' This was the first of many conversations that have been taking place ever since that first day when Dave was finally able to turn it all off, get it all out, and take on a new direction.

Instead of letting the war get to him, Dave Sharp is fighting back. His P2V program pairs companion animals with returning Veterans and first responders, in order to help them deal with the unnatural stresses acquired from their careers. When we stop to consider all that they go through in order to provide and protect our society, the very least we can do is afford them the same understanding they can get from their companion animal. After all is said and done, Love is all we need, and the best part about it- Love is always free.

SO what does Dave say about his future now?

"Since fall 2009 P2V has been steadily expanding and, up until 2 weeks ago, was an entirely volunteer run organization. In that time the organization has expanded to help veterans, active duty military and emergency first responders in the NYC and San Diego areas. P2V hopes to expand to other locations where the nations heroes are in need..."

On April 28th Animal Fair's Wendy Diamond and Lucky will be hosting their second annual White House Correspondents Benefit to help support this wonderful organization. Sophie LaMontagne & Katherine Kallinis the stars of TLC's DC Cupcakes and John McLaughlin and many special surprise guests will be there to lend a helping paw!

There will be adorable dogs up for adoption where party participants (whether Republican or Democrat) can see if they click with any of the lovable dogs throughout the evening. Diamond promises if Bo Obama and/or Champ, Joe Biden's seven-month-old German Shepherd rescue attend they will have a ball (or be thrown a ball) at this benefit.

To learn more about Dave Sharpe and P2V, you can contact them directly at 877.311.4P2V (4728), ext. 2, or reach out to Animal Fair, where animals and humans alike always get a fair chance.