03/24/2011 05:14 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Operation Heroes And Hounds Matches War Veterans With Death Row Dogs

After serving in the Marines, Sonny Patrick found herself struggling with homelessness and alcoholism. But once she made friends with Sarge, a small mutt saved from "doggie death row," she felt her life take a positive turn.

Speaking of Sarge, she told NBC Los Angeles:

"It's great he's here for us. We're all just one dog, one hug away from a better world."

Patrick participates in Operation Heroes and Hounds, a program supported by veteran-advocacy nonprofit New Directions.

The program saves dogs deemed "unadoptable" by local pounds and matches them with war vets who are finding it difficult to adjust to civilian life. The veterans help acclimate the nervous or untrained dogs to become adoptable by training and nurturing them.

The organization says the dogs in turn help their trainers and reports that vets who complete the program experience a 35 percent quality-of-life increase.