Category Archives: Epilepsy

Paul and his SDIT Jill

From our Austin trainer Maddie, who had her second session with Paul and his SDIT, American Staffordshire Terrier Mix, “Jill”. Paul has had epilepsy that started when he was 21. He had no prior history of seizures. He continues to have seizures despite changing medicines and upping the dosages. Consequently, he’s always worried that he will have a seizure and has developed anxiety, PTSD, and depression. He has no physical limitations other than not driving due to epilepsy.

Maddie writes:

“Today was my first meeting with Paul at his home after he adopted Jill 2 weeks ago, giving them time to bond. It went wonderfully! Jill can already “sit”, “down”, “stay”, “load and unload out of a vehicle in a controlled manner”, “heels” well slightly behind Paul and never pulls, doesn’t have a prey drive or any desire to pull Paul to meet strange dogs, she “waits” and follows Paul through doors, loves kids and adults, and was perfectly fine when I had her leash as well. That is well over half the Public Access Test! However, we have to work on her “coming” when called. Paul and I think she has a history of abuse before being rescued… this is because she loves to give kisses and snuggle, but if you stand up and walk toward her or call her while standing she does not want to come. However, if you are sitting on the floor, she comes perfectly. We think that the standing person (being so much bigger than her) makes her scared. She also is frightened by loud, unexpected noises, but recovers quickly. We spent the whole session figuring out what her comfort zone was in relation to coming when called.

The only things to work on for the PAT are: “coming” when called, “leaving” food that is dropped, and continuing to “heel” when Paul drops the leash.

I noticed immediately that Jill seemed much less skittish than when she was first adopted from the shelter, and was very comfortable in her new home. Paul also took Jill to meet his family and their dogs. He said at the first meeting, she was overwhelmed and a bit intimidated by his parents’ Great Dane. But after getting to spend time together, they have become great friends! Jill has decided the Dane’s orthopedic bed is her own! And they love to play together in the yard. On top of this, last week Jill accompanied Paul to his office out of the house, and she was a gem the whole trip. Great job Jillybean!”

Paul’s homework is to work hard on having Jill “come” when called. He will start by calling her while sitting on the floor, then his knees, then sitting on the couch, then standing. Hopefully, with this slow change, she will begin to see she can trust him not to hurt her. She loves to snuggle with him so I know she loves her knew dad, she is just too nervous because of past experiences.”

Wounded Warrior Ryan, and his SDIT, “Shade”

From our trainer, Beverly, who is working with Wounded Warrior Ryan, and his SDIT, “Shade”. Ryan suffers from epilepsy and anxiety.

Beverly writes:

” This was the first appointment with Ryan and his new pup “Shade.” Shade is a very intelligent black lab who is bonding well with Ryan and fitting nicely into his family. His previous pup wouldn’t settle down and was causing more stress, so she was re-homed prior to him obtaining his new pup.

We worked on “Sit, Down, Watch Me and Leave it”. Shade picked up on all of them very quickly and did well during the session. Ryan will work in several short sessions throughout the day, since Shade is young (6 months) and he is a student (online) and home with her most of the day.

Since Shade is showing high intelligence and bonding well with Ryan, I believe she will quickly pick up on any chemical changes and will be easy to train to alert to seizures or anything else we ask of her. They make a great team!

UPDATE: They’ve worked together for 2 weeks on the above skills and Ryan says Shade is doing very well. We will meet on Wednesday for the next session to work on “heel, wait and stay”. I’m excited to see the progress and watch Shade and Ryan become a fantastic SD team!

Amanda and SDiT Diezel

From trainer, Andrew, who is working with Amanda, who suffers from epilepsy and anxiety, and her SDIT, Diezel.

Andrew writes:

“Amanda, Diezel and I met at Petsmart and worked on the Public Access Test for practice. Diezel had some issues with focusing and remaining seated when strangers are around. Other than that, they are getting very close to passing! Amanda and Diezel are a great team – they really love each other, and Diezel is extremely attentive to Amanda.

We met again at Petsmart for the next session. We worked on obedience conditioning, and ran through the Public Access Test again for practice. We also discussed certain reorientation exercises that will help Diezel to utilize Amanda as good home base and enable him to focus better on his handler is these distraction-rich environments.”

CONGRATS to Candice and Trenton

From our trainer, Cherry, who has been working with Candice, who suffers from epilepsy and anxiety, and her now Service Dog, Trenton!!

“Huge congratulations to Candice and her little Corgi mix Trenton, who passed their Public Access Test!

Candice has worked very hard with Trenton, who in the beginning was anxious of big stores and busy places – but now he confidently goes with Candice everywhere!

Trenton has alerted Candice over nine times in the past couple of months to her seizures!

Off leash, load, unload, sit and stay, down and stay, wait, leave it, positioning in a restaurant and heeling were all done extremely well!!

Candice and her family are off on vacation soon, and she told me how happy she is that she will be taking with her Trenton, her Public Access Tested Service dog!

Candice’s dedication to training her beloved Trenton has truly paid off. She told me as we were leaving the store how excited she is to take off the ‘In Training’ badge and sew on her Service Dog patch!

And so she should be, she deserves it!

Ryan and Blue

From our trainer, Beverly, who met for the first time with Wounded Warrior, Ryan, who suffers from severe anxiety and epilepsy. She writes:

Attached is a picture of Ryan and his dog “Blue”. I went to evaluate Blue and discussed the process with Ryan on our first visit to see if Blue would be suitable for Service Dog work.

Blue is young and quite energetic, but we had decided, since he already has a bond with Blue, to do a few sessions and see how regular training impacts her focus and ability to work with Ryan. Ryan described that on walks she did very well, with minimal pulling and seemed attentive (not losing focus due to her young age.) However, a couple nights after that session, Ryan texted and asked for assistance to find another dog. He said that unfortunately, he realized that Blue’s energy level was too much for him, and he’d like an “older more established dog.” I will work with Ryan to try and find the right dog for his needs.

Amanda and Diezel

From our trainer, Andrew, who is working with Amanda, who suffers from epilepsy and resulting anxiety, and her SDIT, Diezel.

“This session was the first we have had since before Christmas, so Amanda, Diezel and I worked on focus (“watch me”) and passive attention (which teaches a dog to defer to its owner. It works because it incorporates signals that dogs use to communicate about their relative roles in their natural social systems. It works well on when training owners of dominant dogs.

Diezel has issues with focus. So, I went straight for a warmup exercise that I learned from Sophia Yin’s techniques. It consists of the dog and handler on leash facing each other; then the handler, with perfect posture, backs up fast enough so the dog has no chance to hesitate yet slow enough so the dog doesn’t get pulled, and far enough so the dog has a chance to get going without running past the handler and defeating the purpose of the exercise. The dog is then rewarded for sitting directly on front of the handler, then again for remaining seated, then once again for keeping attention on the handler, and once again if the dog looks away for a second and returns attention to the handler.

Service Dog Express's photo.

We then we worked on a “reorienting exercise” where the handler stops at the threshold of any new environment, allowing the dog to go in first. The exercis

e is done in a way to train the dog to reorient its attention to the handler by looking at them as soon as they cross into a new environment. When the dog goes in first, as soon as he turns his head in the direction of the, the handler marks and rewards the dog and continues on with the exercise. Remember that the head turn is what we are marking, not the eye contact. This teaches the dog to use the handler as a land mark instead of getting lost in its surroundings upon entering a new environment i.e. a grocery store, home depot, etc… We then worked a little off-leash and my dog Penelope demonstrated that and some waits and stays.”

Assistance in the Rio Grande Valley and more

This is a message from our exceptionally brilliant and compassionate trainer, Jacqueline (Jackie). Her life’s passion is to help Veterans, and she asked us to post this for all Veterans, especially in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), if they need help.

I have been a graduate psychologist at the VA down here in the RGV. After working in 3 different VA health care systems, I have seen the great need for Veteran care and have seen both good (actually excellent) and bad ways VAs are run and treatment is provided. It is with an EXTREMELY saddened heart that I can no longer allow myself to provide a lower level of care to Veterans than what they deserve, nor be forced into functioning in a treatment setting that is providing unethical care.

I LOVE my work with Veterans and see such a huge need for this to continue, but as I leave, I also see several other amazing psychologists leaving as well due to the same challenges. I continue to see a need for Behavioral Health Care in the Rio Grande Valley, with Veterans and Civilians alike. After 11 years of schooling and 7 years providing Behavioral Health (BH) Services, I was completing my licensure requirements as a psychologist to provide the highest and most comprehensive options out there, however, despite the need for services in the RGV, I ran into several dead ends for finishing this last piece. However, I am willing to put my own final step on hold to help two communities (Veterans and anyone in the RGV) in need of BH services.

I hold a Masters Level License in the State of Texas that allows me to practice independently (but with some restrictions from what I would have had with my psychologist license and obviously at about 1/3-1/4 of the pay). I am hoping to make some things come together over the next month or two (and will probably be open to picking up random general labor work as my student loans have gone into effect and I incurred debt moving from Idaho to here), but am hoping to offer TeleHealth (similar to Skyping but in a much more secure system) and/or in home therapy/animal assisted-therapy services here in the RGV at hopefully a fraction of the cost of some other places (most likely on an income based sliding scale fee basis) since I will not be accepting insurance and I am wanting to reach a larger population of those in need.

That being said, minus the in-home piece, I am able to offer this TeleHealth service within the scope of my practice anywhere in the state of Texas. I am most wanting to reach Veterans as I know for many, wait times between treatment sessions is 2-3 months in several facilities throughout the state. However, I am also really wanting to service Civilians in the RGV and throughout Texas. I am NOT bilingual unfortunately, but have a considerable amount of understanding of the RGV culture, the Hispanic Culture, and the Texas Hispanic Culture.

For those of you who may know of people who may be able to benefit from this, please feel free to contact me. I will gladly share my extensive training and treatment experience with anyone who requests this, and am hoping to start this as an option for the community within the next two months.

Please contact me at: Jacqueline Kappelman

Amanda and SDiT Diezel

Our trainer, Andrew, has had several training sessions with Amanda, who suffers from epilepsy and anxiety related to her fear of having seizures. Her SDIT is beautiful Diezel! Andrew writes:

At our first session, we began our session by walking around the block. Having Penelope, my little companion dog with me, I handed her to Amanda in trade for the big, beautiful Diezel! I worked on his heel, allowing the dog to correct himself when he pulled and rewarding Diezel for keeping the leash loose. This is also the beginning of teaching Diezel that when he is called, he needs to be in position, but when released he can go anywhere within the reach of the leash without pulling. After we finished our walk, we went inside the house and worked on “stays” and “waits”.

At our next session, Amanda made the trip to my house. At first, Diezel was very distracted all the scents of our horses, donkey, and many dogs, which was to be expected. We worked with Diezel on trying to keep his focus on the task at hand, and we rewarded him handsomely each time he remained focused. We worked on loose-leash walking and heeling with directional changes, trying to make the training firm but fun. By the end of our first session, Diezel was focusing so well on Amanda and was not very distracted at all!

We practiced “accept restraint” – a game used to desensitize a dog to various circumstances like a vet visit, or a grooming, or something simple like accepting training equipment. We also practiced what I call “take it”, where the handler tosses a treat for the dog to retrieve and then commands the dog to return. This game can be used to teach the dog to fetch a toy, then eventually personal items.

At the most recent session, we reinforced heeling maneuvers, focus, loose-leash walking, wait, stay, and take it. I had to remind Amanda a little bit about the importance of stepping off with the correct foot when beginning a walk or commanding the dog to stay/wait. I believe our body language speaks volumes to the dogs we are working with, far more so than our words, so it I absolutely imperative that we are consistent in not only the correct sequence of gestures, but way we hold ourselves with confidence and authority.

We have now reached the end of our obedience behaviors and from now on we will be working out in a real world environment to solidify, generalize, and strengthen our dogs working behavior and our bond with the animal. We will be learning “cover”, and whatever helps to soothe Amanda’s anxiety and stress. Both Amanda and her husband have confessed to me that they are very proud of the state of calm confidence that has been instilled into Diezel as a result of our training. In the beginning he was a big wrecking ball – unable to sit still and keep focus on anything, but at the end of our last session he was sitting calmly and confidently in front of them, fully receiving pets from them.


Desiree and SDIT Ollie

Laurie had two AMAZING training sessions with new client, Desiree, and her 6 month-old St. Bernard mix, Ollie! Desiree suffers from epilepsy, so we will be training for the Public Access Test while simultaneously training for epilepsy detection.

Desiree is a brilliant young woman who works with troubled juveniles. She brings Ollie to work where he stays in her office, and Ollie provides such a calming presence for the juveniles she counsels. At the first session, Desiree was completely prepared – had a vest, the right collar and leash, a treat bag, the right treats; she REALLY read the training manual and was ready to go!

Ollie is wonderful, and will make a wonderful Service Dog. At our first session, we just went over the basics of training and how the epilepsy training will work. They practiced “sit”, “down”, “stay”, and “leave it”.

At their second session, they went to Petco. Ollie heeled extremely well on the leash. He easily avoided distractions and did wonderful “watch mes” while heeling with Desiree. Laurie did a lot of work with Ollie herself, then had Desiree step in. Ollie did wonderful meet and greets, and was perfect when meeting people and other dogs.

Desiree and Ollie have an extremely tight bond. The next thing they have to work on is trying to get Ollie not to always feel he has to be near Desiree when she gives the command “I’m OK”. Ollie is perfect for this kind of work, and Desiree is a joy to work with!!!

Amanda and SDIT Diezel

From our trainer, Andrew, who started training with Amanda, who has epilepsy and anxiety, and her SDIT, Diezel.

“This was our initial session and it occurred at Amanda’s house. Amanda’s dog is a lovely, exuberant pitbull named Diezel. Being treat driven, Diezel is easy to train. We worked on basic obedience; “sit”, “down” and “puppy push-ups”. Then we did some heeling maneuvers, heeling left and right, and not pulling on the leash etc. I talked to Amanda about the importance of a prong collar, especially with a dog his size, and I showed her how to properly put the collar on and how to use it safely. Diezel will mainly be correcting himself with the prong collar save the occasional pull upwards correction for misbehaving. I talked a little about the difference between “stay” and “wait”, and we will work on this at the next session. I anticipate a very short trip to the Public Access Test with these two!”