Ann Juliano manages a crew of volunteers and pets who make a difference.

Ann Juliano with her dogs, Siloh (left) and Soli (right), visit local veterans.

Ann Juliano is a Hero’s Bridge volunteer who serves an important role as Paw Patrol Coordinator. Paw Patrol is a Hero’s Bridge initiative which provides friendly furry visits to older heroes.

Molly Brooks, president Hero’s Bridge, said, “These harbingers of good are brought to our heroes by volunteers who also gain tremendous joy through their visits with our older veterans.”

Soli is a 14 year dog who thoroughly enjoys visiting aging veterans.

When Ann’s dog, Siloh, was a puppy she learned about Hero’s Bridge: “I was at a dinner function with a friend, who happens to work with Hero’s Bridge, and was sharing information about Siloh and his training. My friend suggested I reach out and get involved with Hero’s Bridge and here I am.”

Ann’s awareness of recognizing those who have served our nation is an asset, but she also has comprehends specific needs of aging heroes. “Our aging veterans face particular struggles and I think it is important we do whatever we can to assist them; in whatever manner necessary.” She shared, “I have always been proud of my country, and very appreciative of all our service members, past and present.” And Hero’s Bridge recognized what a great volunteer Paw Patrol Coordinator she would be for the organization.

Siloh not only visits our heroes, but loves to work through agility course training.

“I have enjoyed locating and coordinating other volunteers so they too can experience what I have witnessed with the pet visits,” said Ann. Meeting veterans and hearing their stories is something Ann enjoys, and she she said she loves to see the joy in their [veterans] eyes when a pet comes to visit. “It’s not only good for the veterans, it’s also good for the animals and the handlers,” she said.

Over the summer, Ann and her husband traveled to Buffalo to visit her now late father-in-law who was in hospice care. During this visit, Ann and her husband saw little, if any, reaction from her father-in-law due to his illness. “I’m not quite sure he recognized us,” shared Ann.

“On our second visit, we took Siloh to visit and the difference was drastic! His reaction was heart-warming and the experience solidified my feelings that pets truly make folks feel happier.” Ann remembered how her father-in-law laughed, smiled, and pet Siloh. “We even saw some of his quirky humor come out,” she said. “It was a very powerful thing to see.”

Siloh (left) and Soli (right) enjoy monthly social visits with veterans living at The Villas of Suffield Meadow in Warrenton.

According to Ann, animal assisted activities help reduce depression, blood pressure, anxiety, and even pain and fatigue for individuals with a variety of health issues. She said, “Pets offer a nonjudgmental form of emotional support.”

“The most important aspect for animal assisted visits is the temperament of the pet. They should be comfortable meeting new people in unfamiliar places,” shared Ann.  She also mentioned it is important animals are not intimidated by objects such as wheelchairs or hospital beds, and pets need to be non-aggressive and well-mannered. Ann said, “All handlers should be 100 percent focused on the animal for the entire visit.”

Although dogs are a very popular visitor, other animals also make appearances to the older veterans Hero’s Bridge serves. Pets such as dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and even a pig are available to visit heroes served by this nonprofit organization.Ann coordinates several volunteers and numerous pet visits weekly for aging veterans in the community. One volunteer, Cindy, said, “My visits to Suffield Meadows have been great. Rowdy [her dog] really has taken to it and enjoys going right up to the veterans and giving them lots of attention. He’s too big to be a lap dog, but he’s tall enough to look them in the eye and even give them kisses!”

Cindy Burbank (left) is a Paw Patrol volunteer who brings her adorable, friendly dog named Rowdy to visit with veterans.

Compelling, heart-warming, and caring are descriptive words which compliment Ann Juliano very well. Her personality and nurturing soul provides our community heroes some very welcome and joyous times. Ann and her amazing PAW Patrol volunteers and animals are an example of the “good” in the world. Ann and her crew’s dedication and kindness serve older heroes so well.

If you are interested in volunteering with Hero’s Bridge, register today, as individuals are always welcome and needed for a variety of services Hero’s Bridge provides to honor, stand by, and serve older heroes in the community.