Local charity Rebuilding Warriors pairs veterans with K-9 heroes

In many cases, dogs are not just our best friends, but also our heroes. That's especially true for many veterans. And one local charity is connecting those heroes, both human and canine.

Jeff Pieters is a Marine combat veteran who says his life has changed, thanks to his 3-year-old service dog, Bandit - and a group called Rebuilding Warriors.

"So coming back, readjusting and having a family is a really great thing and that helps a lot and having a dog on top of that I really kind - of you know - he's a good outlet," Pieters said. "He gives me something to look forward to everyday; somebody to work out with somebody that's willing to be there for me in any situation."

Pieters says he struggles with anger issues, but having Bandit around has had a great calming effect on him.
"I'll have moments where I am in a certain mind set and it's something that you know, when I'm in that moment of just heated anger, or just frustration, I can turn to Bandit and he'll be there. Just like, 'Hey man, sit here, pet me.' We'll relax for a while, go for a walk, cool off and he helps me very much that way," Pieters said.

His family members say they've seen the way Bandit has made Pieters a gentle person, as well, since returning from combat service.

"Now that Bandit is here he found a different, almost like a new outlook on life," Vanessa Pieters said. "Because he had this new friend he had to work on and the focus every day is more on him, than his shortcomings or something he's stressed about. He has a very positive outlook - someone else to feed, someone else to take care of, somebody else that needs him, and I really think that that's something that has helped him."

Jeff Anderson is the organizer behind Rebuilding Warriors. They've placed 96 dogs in 23 states to military veterans all across the country.
"What we do is provide a dog and that dog is the gateway to love and emotions. So, you have a dog - and some of these guys are standoffish with the dogs and then three days later, they're petting the dog. Four days later, the dog is in bed with them. Then five days later, everywhere we go - the dog is going. And all of a sudden it's 'Hey honey, you wanna stay home? I'm going to bring my dog!" Anderson said.

The Chino Hills Animal Hospital hosted an event with Rebuilding Warriors to raise awareness about the impact of service animals.

These service animals are just not pets, the dogs become members of the family.

"I would say Bandit acts as a catalyst in my family relationships. I have something to connect with my son, with my daughter and with my wife over. He's just like another addition to my family, he's like a child. And as such he has to learn his role in the family and we have to teach him that role. He really loves being a part of our family," Pieters said.
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