Earlier this year, the staff at Virginia NeuroCare, a partner of The MENTOR Network and NeuroRestorative, welcomed a new addition to their program serving active duty service men and women with traumatic brain injuries: facility dog Cousteau. Adopted from the local animal shelter, Cousteau’s role is to help soldiers practice their cognitive skill building.
"Cousteau’s duties are varied," says Kellie Doolittle, the occupational therapist who works closely with Cousteau. "Our soldiers with TBI need to relearn how to organize their thoughts – teaching Cousteau how to fetch, sit, or ‘salute’ is a rewarding way for them to regain important life skills." Besides teaching cognitive skills, Cousteau also helps lift the morale of the soldiers when they’re having a bad day.
Cousteau was honored with a Companion Award from the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies, recognizing adopted animals who have made tremendous contributions to the lives of others. Kellie and Cousteau accepted the award in March at the Humane Society’s annual conference.