Making Room for a Veteran’s Best Friend at St. Francis Commons

SCRANTON, Pa. -- A shelter for homeless veterans in Scranton has a few more residents --residents with four legs.

St. Francis Commons recently started a program that allows veterans to have pets. They're calling it "Curative Companions."

Buddy is happiest on his owner's lap. Rick Machovoe says the feeling is mutual.

"You could be around a lot of people and still be lonely, you know? Then, when Buddy came, Buddy is like a family member, so all of a sudden, I'm not alone."

Rick and Buddy were separated when the Marine veteran came to St. Francis Commons in Scranton, but the veterans' shelter was awarded a grant this year that now allows residents to keep pets.

"When we rescued him, we walked in, the lady was very hesitant and told me to stay away from him because she wasn't sure about it," Machovoe recalled. "But right away, he jumped right into my arms and that was it, it was a sealed deal right from the beginning. I'm his best friend and he's my best friend."

The grant helps pay for pet food, supplies, even veterinary visits for the pets who live at St. Francis Commons.

"We were able to assist several animals, get preventative procedures at the vet, help with food, help with supplies. The concept of having the support animals here with the veterans has made a significant and immediate impact on their overall mental health," said Ryan Pollock, St. Francis Commons.

Many of the veterans here suffer from the scars of their service. The five dogs and one cat who now live here have been effective healers.

"If I start reminiscing about things, he knows, and he'll come over and he'll bring that out," said Army veteran Robert Wolfe.

Wolfe plans to bring Otis along for whatever comes next, knowing now he will never be alone.

"It's easy to sit and get stuck in your own thoughts and, you know, get in a bad place. But, like, with him, it's almost impossible to get there."

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