HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. — How would you describe a best friend?

Someone who’s loyal? Someone who’s always there? Maybe, someone who changed your life.

For Hoosier veteran Adam Leedy, his dog Mona has done all those things.

“Mona’s been my best friend since I came back,” said Leedy. “I’ve never had a more loyal friend in my life.”

Leedy served 11 years in the U.S. Army. He signed up shortly after the 9/11 attacks and did two tours in Iraq. 

Like many veterans, Leedy returned from war struggling with PTSD and began self-medicating with alcohol and struggling to recover from 14 surgeries related to an injury suffered while he served.

“With PTSD and the depression, it just started to take a toll on me,” he said.

That’s when Mona came into his life. Leedy had heard about ‘Pets Healing Vets,’ a program that pairs veterans with emotional support animals through the Humane Society for Hamilton County.

One visit to the shelter with his family later, and Adam had a best friend.

“We saw her in the kennel, she was the one jumping up and down and barking,” Leedy said. “I was just hoping this dog’s going to be ok.”

Mona is not a service dog, however, Pets Healing Vets does provide training before adoption. All of the pets, primarily dogs, come from the Humane Society for Hamilton County.

The program covers the costs of ownership, including food, vaccinations, and even treatment if the pets get sick. Hamilton County Humane is a “no-kill” shelter, but many of the dogs in the program would not get adopted if it wasn’t for Pets Healing Vets. 

Organizers say the program is saving lives at both ends of the leash.

“A pet is there for them each day when they come home, when they’re at bed at night,” said Hamilton County Humane Society worker Jennifer Hatcher. “They’re having night terrors.  We haven’t found anything that can replace the relationship with pets.”

Leedy said it is hard to put into words the difference Mona has made in his life. He admits he was in a dark place before this dog gave him the motivation to climb out.

“Having her just someone as a trusted friend, gave me the strength to know that I can at least try.”