Category Archives: Depression

In Meghan’s Words

From our trainer in Austin, who is working with Meghan, who suffers from PTSD, severe anxiety/depression, and fibromyalgia. Meghan had eloquently described her condition, and I thought I would share it (with her permission) because I think a lot of us can relate to it. Meghan wrote:

“Most nights when I sleep, I have severe nightmares and wake up every few hours. The anxiety from the PTSD, nightmares, flashbacks causes severe panic attacks. The anxiety leads to depression, which makes leaving the house difficult. At times, the fibromyalgia leaves me exhausted, affecting my ability to stand and my general ability to function or concentrate. I’ll collapse or have to sit down wherever I’m at. My speech can even become slurred. I also am in constant pain. I am disabled and have a part time job but only work 16 hours (4 hours days) due to a doctor recommendation. This at times leaves me with little or no energy. My boyfriend has had to assist me in writing this because of my Fibromyalgia impeding my concentration.

My psychiatrist recommended that a Service Dog might help me with panic attacks, PTSD, and even the depression. Recently, my physician suggested a Service Dog for both my PTSD (panic attacks) and fibromyalgia.

A Service Dog would be a constant companion I could rely on – helping me realize when the PTSD is causing me to hallucinate and have flashbacks. My companion would help me focus my thoughts in these moments. He would also help me to keep from becoming overwhelmed by my surroundings. A companion will be able to give me more confidence when I step out because he would be able to notify me if I am having a panic attack or starting to disassociate with my surroundings, forcing me to focus on him instead of my fear. He would also allow me to exercise and function better outside of the house. Part of my fear is if I become tired or have a fibro spell, I will have no help. Most days I will not leave the house without my boyfriend. A Service Dog could also help for when the fibromyalgia leaves me with no energy and I start to collapse, by giving me someone to lean on physically and emotionally. I have also heard that they can help comfort you when the PTSD causes nightmares and can help with the nightmares. This would be wonderful as I sleep very little, especially at one time. I wake up some nights and am even afraid to go to the bathroom or I lay awake afraid to go to sleep. Having someone there to remind me what is and isn’t real, that will stand by my side will be an immense relief. He would help me function better when I go out and perform daily activities.”

I was just so impressed with this detailed, well-thought out description of what someone with these particular issues deals with on a day-to-day basis, that I knew others could relate. The fact that both Meghan’s psychiatrist AND physician prescribed a Service Dog gives me hope that the medical community is starting to realize the value of these dogs in our lives.

Our trainer writes:

“I just finished a session with Meghan and Precious. We did our first public training outing at Petsmart!

I let Precious go in the store and explore first before we began our training, just to desensitize him and make sure we got his full engagement after he had smelled the store. We worked on loose-leash walking before we started on heeling. I had Meghan focus on rewarding Precious for not pulling and for checking back in with Meghan to make sure she was ok. We also worked on down/stays and sit/stays. Precious is strong in sit/stays. His down/stays need more work, but overall, he did great! His heeling was wonderful after after we got into the rhythm! He needs to work a bit on his self-control when out in public. Precious loves other dogs and people, so this is something we will be constantly working on so that his focus remains on Meghan and away from his surroundings.”


Sonya and SDIT, Rottweiler Princess

From trainer Beverly, who is working with Sonya and SDIT, Rottweiler Princess. Sonya, a Wounded Warrior, suffers from PTSD, Fibromyalgia, Depression, and stability issues.

“Sonya, Princess and I really worked on engaging Princess to “Want” to train and get excited about the sessions. Using high value (good smelling hot dogs) and the “touch” game to keep engaging her when she started losing interest, we had a great session! We started with a short walk and had Princess “sit” at each shady spot to begin making it her “habit” that when Sonya stops, Princess automatically “sits”. Princess heels beautifully.

Next, we went inside and learned the “leave it” game, “watch me” and “touch”. Princess was excited and remained engaged for the full hour (a first for us with her.) Princess caught on very quickly and really seemed to enjoy the games and engaging with Sonya (who also enjoyed the games.)

They will continue the “sit” ritual on each of her walks and playing the “leave it” game (with increasing temptation), “watch me”, and “touch” to keep Princess engaged and excited about her sessions and time with Sonya.”


Fall In Love With Mastiffs

Well, I have to admit I have absolutely fallen in love with Mastiffs of all types as Service Dogs. I have worked with so many recently, I am completely amazed at their perfect combination of sweetness and intelligence. I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with three new clients with Mastiffs – two English Mastiffs, and one Cane Corso. Despite their size of about a zillion pounds, they are gentle, loving, and bond SO closely to their handler. In addition, one of the things I have noticed the most is their eye contact. They become totally focused when engaged in training and tasks. “Watch me” is like asking a child if they want a new toy. There’s no second asking. They also seem to have an amazing capability to learn a new skill SO quickly – and they don’t forget it once it is reinforced a few times. Because of their size, of course they are great mobility dogs – but they also make perfect Service Dogs for people with PTSD, psychiatric issues, anxiety, depression, and are so gentle with and protective of small children.

That being said, I want to talk about my first English Mastiff SDIT, Beatrice! Beatrice’s handler, Elizabeth, went into the training obviously very unsure if Beatrice would do well. Beatrice far surpassed all my and Elizabeth’s expectations. We had our first session at Elizabeth’s home, where we discussed Elizabeth’s need for a Service Dog and her expectations. On our first public outing, we went to Petsmart. Beatrice left me in awe! She can “sit’ and “down” no matter how many people or dogs are around her with the proper tone of voice and hand signals. She “loads” and “unloads” perfectly with a wait signal. Beatrice will sit and wait at doors until told “go through”. She knows “watch me”, and “heels” perfectly on just a regular flat collar! Beatrice performed several meet and greets with children, adult males and females, sitting first, then being petted or having the stranger offer a treat. She LOVES all other dogs – small, tiny and large dogs, and is submissive to dogs she meets who seem afraid of her large size. She will even go into a “down” if she feels the child or dog she meets is a bit nervous! We practiced 20 ft off-leash sit/stays and down/stays and she was marvelous. She also stays in a heel position when the leash is dropped for a few steps. I would say Beatrice’s only fault is her occasional massive drool when thirsty or excited!!! It was completely a dream to train Beatrice – who even ignored created distractions. Poor Beatrice recently suffered from a prolapsed uterus, and had to have major surgery. But she has healed just fine!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get pictures at Petsmart because I was so amazed, but here are some from our first meeting at Elizabeth’s house.


The Amazing Nina and SD Sea-Jay

I have had the AMAZING opportunity to meet one of the kindest, most compassionate, and intelligent clients – Nina. Nina has a rather sad story. She has advanced degrees in engineering, and many years ago, while overseeing a construction site on a bridge, a large truck lost control and she was forced to jump off the bridge, landing more than 30 feet completely on her back in the water. She was in her early 30s. Needless to say, the damage to her back as a result of the fall left her completely disabled, and she had to give up the work she loved and was so good at. Since that time, she has gone through depression and anxiety, and suffers from severe migraines almost every other day that leave her completely incapacitated. One of the things that has kept this beautiful woman, now in her late 40s, going, is her passion for rescue dogs. She self-trained her first Service Dog, who passed away. She decided to rescue another dog to self-train, and fell instantly in love with a dog, “Sea-Jay”, a boxer, who is deaf. It was an instant bonding between the two of them – and knowing that Sea-Jay was about to be euthanized, she adopted him immediately. She has completely self-trained Sea-Jay using sign language, and Sea-Jay comforts her during every migraine, lying beside her making sure that a part of his body is touching hers to let her know he is there. Sea-Jay is given SO much love by dear Nina – it’s the most beautiful thing to watch their bond. We have trained both in-house and had our first public training at Petsmart, where Sea-Jay was able to perform all Public Access Commands using sign language – we just have to work on his “stay” for longer distances. Sea-Jay heels perfectly, loads and unloads, constantly makes eye contact with Nina, stays close to her side if she starts to get unsteady due to her pain, and is not distracted by anything – other dogs, cats – you name it. This is just one pair that proves how much rescue dogs, even with disabilities of their own, can be wonderful Service Dogs to responsible, loving handlers. Nina even offered to establish a scholarship in honor of her Service Dog that passed, Abbie, to be donated to, our non-profit arm. That’s just Nina – giving and compassionate to the core. And Sea-Jay gives the most wonderful, slobbery kisses!!!

Nina and SeeJay


First Training Session With Meghan

A wonderful update from our trainer in Austin:

“Hi Laurie!

This was my first training session with Meghan, who suffers from PTSD, severe anxiety/depression, night terrors, and fibromyalgia, and her SDIT Precious. When we first met awhile ago, she wanted to make her dog, Maximus a Service Dog – but within the last couple of weeks, Precious showed up in her life and has done an amazing job of keeping her calm and safe when she is not feeling well. Precious already instinctively knows what his job is. He was made to be her Service Dog!

I met with her and Precious at her apartment. We started out the session outside working on heeling with distractions around. He was good at heeling, but needs more practice. I started out training Precious on “close”, and he caught on quickly! He is a smart one!

Precious gets super excited when he sees other dogs out in public, so I taught Meghan the “look at that” technique where you treat the dog before there is any reaction. So, you have to be on guard when you see another dog nearby. You click before there is a reaction and treat them for it – this prolongs the dog from reacting and keeps him looking back at you because you are treating him.

Then, we went upstairs to her apartment and worked on “leave it”. Precious has a habit of eating Maximus’s food once Maximus walks away and takes a break. So I recommended to Meghan to use this opportunity to practice “leave it”. He got it! As soon as he would walk over to Maximus’ bowl, I stood in front of it and told him to leave it. He sat right away and did not move, then I treated him for that.

This dog chose Meghan for a reason and I am super excited about working with them!”


Lee and Hagger

From our trainer in Austin, who is working with wonderful client, Lee, who suffers from Bipolar Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and Major Social Anxiety, major hearing loss in the left ear which also causes balance issues, scoliosis, and chronic right shoulder pain – at such a young age! Lee is SO inspirational!

“Hi Laurie,

I just had my third session with Lee and Hagger tonight. They are doing very well Lee wanted to work on Hagger’s possessiveness/resource guarding with dinner and his bone towards their friend Johnny. Hagger gives a little growl anytime Johnny walks by him while he is eating dinner or chewing on his bone. So I worked with Johnny on being in Hagger’s space while eating dinner and had him reinforce Hagger for not growling, positive reinforcement for no reaction. Same thing with his bone as well. I also questioned if it was because Johnny would stand over him and if that was a trigger for his growling, so I told Johnny and Lee to watch if he growls when Johnny sits down at Hagger’s level or only when he stands…..

We also worked on his Hagger’s heeling in the parking lot; by that time, Hagger the Humungous was tired from training. I also give Lee some tips on what to do when Hagger forges ahead. I taught Lee the close position to bring Hagger back to place. His eye contact was good. After talking with Lee and keeping up with his Facebook posts on training, I know they are ready for the PAT in the next couple of sessions. I am so proud of Lee for being committed to the training and Hagger is doing a fine job!”