To say that the Cook family has a deep responsibility for national service is an understatement.
Alan Cook is an Air Force veteran. His daughter Danielle Cook is currently a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force. Danielle’s mother and grandfather served too. And the line of service in this family doesn’t stop there — now that Danielle is deployed overseas in Afghanistan, her dog Harper helps veterans suffering PTSD through a program called Circle of Change.
Harper lives with Danielle’s dad and visits the Dog Den, a doggy daycare center in Madison while Sergeant Cook is gone. Workers at the Dog Den thought Harper would be a good candidate for the Circle of Change program. “She is very shy and fearful, but at the same time she is gentle. She’s the perfect dog for our veterans program,” Dog Den employee Deborah Crawley told Gordon Severson of WAOW.
In Circle of Change classes, veterans suffering from PTSD teach dogs who have behavioral problems how to relax and follow commands. This training helps the dogs overcome their fears. Another beneficial outcome? The veterans find their PTSD symptoms are often eased by working with the animals, too.
Desert Storm veteran Mike Weber, a participant in the first six-week Circle of Change course, said working with the dogs helped him feel better. “My way of handling my problem was just to avoid everything. This has really helped me come back out and kind of get me back on track,” Weber told Severson. “It’s such a great program and it really has helped me bond with not only the animals, but other vets and volunteers.”
“We’re a military family all the way down to the dog now,” Alan Cook told Severson. “My daughter is just so proud of Harper and thinks it’s a great thing. It gives her something to do while my daughter is away overseas.”