January 21, 2010
Cousteau came to Service Dogs of Virginia for training from the SPCA. Now, the rescued dog - Colonel Cousteau - is returning the favor.
Colonel is the honorary status given to Cousteau, who works alongside Occupational Therapist Kelli Doolittle at the Lakeview Neurocare Center. Cousteau helps to create a bond between Doolittle and her clients, who are mainly soldiers returning from overseas with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or traumatic brain injuries.
"You look at them and they're fine, they look fine, they walk, they talk they drive; where they might have problems is keeping up with appointments and sequencing their day," said Doolittle.
As a result of a combat injury, Doolittle says some of her clients may get in the shower, but forget to wash. Cousteau helps teach Doolittle's patients how to create a routine.
"Teaching them how to sequence steps in an activity like dog training will tech them if they can generalize. That will teach them how to sequence their daily living," said Doolittle.
Doolittle says animals who know just how you're feeling are often just what the clients need.
"It goes right down the leash. If you're in a good mood, the dog's automatically in a good mood, if you're in a bad mood or you're anxious, the dog's going to say 'wait, why are you anxious?' " said Doolittle.
Colonel Cousteau has learned how to salute and how to low crawl, but more impressive is the calming effect he has on patients. If he could talk, Cousteau would say he is just fulfilling his duty as man's best friend, a heroic gesture that doesn't go unnoticed by those men and women who fight for our freedom.