STURGIS, Mich. (WOOD) — Several Michigan cannabis companies are collaborating with the St. Joseph County VA to help pair veterans with a therapy dog.

Through the VA’s emotional support animal program and their partners at the Michigan Veteran K9 Coalition, the dogs are paired up with veterans to help them transition back to civilian life. The program individually screens and pairs service dogs with veterans based on lifestyle, age, disabilities and other factors.

“The sky’s the limit with what these dogs do for these men and women. Because not only do they give them that companionship, they also give them a reason to get up, get out and get moving. They make them more sociable,” Nichole Ermsberger, emotional support dog trainer, said.

Nine months ago, five local cannabis businesses found out about the work and wanted to help.

“Veterans have been using cannabis to improve the quality of their lives after coming home because of PTSD, things of that nature…” Hilary Dulany, co-owner of Bloom City Sturgis Dispensary, said. “They’ve discovered that they can get off some of the medications by using cannabis. We have been intimately attached to veterans that come into our businesses.”

“I don’t know if we could save everybody, but I know we could absolutely make a change one individual life at a time,” Nate Darling, marketing director at Redemption Cannabis, said.

Since the program began, 33 veterans have found their four-legged friend. Five of the matches have happened since the cannabis businesses joined.

“If it wasn’t for my dog, I would probably still be overweight… he’s gotten me off my butt, given me purpose, and get me out there,” Cpl. Joel Goodenough, retired U.S. Marine Corps, said.

“Going out in public, you’re always watching all around you. But now, I’m just relaxed and hanging out with Kilo. When I get nervous, he’s all of a sudden, right on my leg, looking at me like ‘Hey, Dad, what’s up? It’s okay’… It makes life a lot easier,” Spc. George Hiller, retired U.S. Army, said.

For more information on the program, click here.

~ News 8 reporter David Horak contributed to this report.