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Wounded Warrior Shares the Healing Power of the Human-Animal Bond

Posted November 26, 2014

Hank and Sgt. William Cole
Hank and Sgt. William Cole

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — When Sgt. William Cole returned from serving his country in Iraq and Afghanistan, he was suffering from a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. His nights were filled with nightmares of losing comrades on the battlefield; however, Cole would soon find a partner on his road to recovery, a Labrador retriever named Hank.  Hank helped Cole battle the depression and nightmares in ways that other therapy and medications could not, and Hank has assumed a very important role in Sgt. Cole’s life.

Soon after adopting Hank, Sgt. Cole would find the tables turned, and it would be Cole who would be fighting for the life of his beloved dog. While Cole was away from his home, Hank managed to get out of the yard and was hit by a vehicle. The driver stopped and took Hank to the Texas A&M University Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital in an effort to save him from his life-threatening injuries.

“When Hank was first presented to the emergency room, he was having a very difficult time breathing and was unable to walk,” said Dr. Kathryn Kaufman, a veterinary surgery resident at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and one of Hank’s doctors. “He was diagnosed with a severe chest injury and a fractured scapula (shoulder blade).  Hank was stabilized by the critical care and emergency team for the first several days while he was here.  A CT scan confirmed considerable damage to his lungs which required surgical removal of the injured areas. After discussion with Sgt. Cole about the risks of surgery and the potential for Hank to have complications, such as reoccurrence of the collapsed lungs, there was no question in his mind: we had to do anything we could to save Hank.  Hank was taken to surgery where we had to remove a portion of a lung on his right side and a complete lobe of lung on his left side.  The surgery went extremely well and Hank continued to improve and grow stronger daily.”

After this complicated surgery and more than two weeks in intensive care, Hank is still recovering.  The fracture of his shoulder blade could take weeks longer to heal, but he is alive, and he and Sgt. Cole together are fighting for his recovery.

“When speaking with Sgt. Cole, I knew Hank meant the world to him and we had to do anything we could to save him,” Kaufman said. “Sgt. Cole mentioned to us how Hank had helped him recover from his own injuries and wartime experiences and he needed to repay the favor; he would not know what to do if Hank didn’t make it.  Throughout his entire stay Hank was nothing but a sweet boy!  He was always happy to see members of his health care team, and his tail was always wagging.  Even on his most difficult days, his attitude was positive.  Hank became a beloved patient in the intensive care unit.  The sadness all felt when he was discharged was overcome by the joy of seeing Hank and Sgt. Cole reunited.  That was inspiring!”

“The relationship between Hank and Sgt. Cole exemplifies the human-animal bond and its significance in our society today,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine.  “Hank has been providing essential therapy for the emotional wounds Sgt. Cole experienced while fighting for our country.  In return and for the benefit of both Hank and Sgt. Cole, it is vital that our college, our hospital, and our highly skilled team of veterinary specialists and technicians respond and do all we can to provide the best care for Hank.  This is another example of how Aggies commit.”

Without the quick intervention from the veterinary team at Texas A&M University, Hank would not have survived his injuries.  Hank has been given a second chance at life, and Sgt. Cole, has been given his best friend back.  The extensive treatment for Hank has not been without its cost, and in the spirit of selfless service and in support of military personnel, the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) has used available funds and discounts to reduce Hank’s almost $11,500 medical bill.

“We have funds established by generous donors, such as the Capper & Chris Save the Animals fund, that allow us to provide financial support in special situations such as this,” said Green. “These funds, added to an existing military discount, were able to provide a significant reduction in Hank’s medical bill.  Through the generosity of caring people who donate to the Capper & Chris Save the Animals fund at the CVM, we are able to add to these funds so they may continue to help others in times of greatest need.  I can think of no better case for these funds than to support of one of our service members and his beloved companion. It is an honor to give back to them both in this way.  Also, additional generous private donations have been received to help defray the cost of Hank’s medical care.”

The Capper & Chris Save the Animals fund is made available through ongoing support of animal lovers from across the country. As such, they need to be continually supported through donations.  For individuals interested in providing financial support special cases such as Hank’s through these established funds, donations may be made through the CVM Development Office by calling 979-845-9043 or by visiting our Development website at /college-giving.


For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at or join us on Facebook.

Contact Information:

Megan Palsa


Angela Clendenin

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