Category Archives: Experience

Firefighters and SD Toby

Our trainer, Jackie, had a wonderful idea! Often, when there is an emergency at someone’s home, and they have a Service Dog, the SD isn’t quite sure how to react to EMS, fire engines, sirens, people breaking down doors, etc.. In addition, many of these first responders aren’t quite sure how to deal with a protective Service Dog. So Jackie went out and had a training session with a Fire Station here in San Antonio! She writes:

“Just wanted to let everyone know that the firefighters on 281 and Jones Maltsberger are absolutely awesome! Since a lot of Service Dogs don’t know how to react to first responders and vice-versa, I did a training session out there today. We had about 3 or 4 firefighters working with us. They suited up, moved the truck around, did lights, and did sirens. It was absolutely awesome! I would recommend working with them and any of your local first responders to do this type of training! I let them know they may see more of us doing training out there!!!!

Great job, Jackie!!!! And thank you for participating, client Lindsey and SD Toby!!!

Prayers for Tony

PLEASE pray for our dear former trainer, Tony, and client – my second Service Dog trained years ago. He already had one kidney transplant donated by his AF wife – He has since moved – but wrote the following:

“Laurie – Well my kidneys finely failed – had to get emergency surgery to place a catheter in my chest for dialysis, and to go back to get the fistula raised in my arm so now I to go get plugged in to a machine every other day..
Miss you all. Love, Tony and SD Lucy.”

His lovely young daughter wrote:

“My dad (Tony Cuciniello) had the first round of dialysis today he got through it great just really tired from the surgery they did to put in a central line I’m proud of him he has been through so much and stands strong I just hope he feels better soon and I’m here for him no matter what smile emoticon I love you daddy.”

His loving wife wrote on their anniversary:
“23 years ago I married the man of my dreams Tony Cuciniello, who I love just as much now as I did then. 15 years ago today is also the anniversary of Tony’s kidney transplant. Happy Anniversary sweetheart. I love you now, forever and always!”

Here is a picture of Tony being comforted by his forever companion, SD Lucy. His daughter put this hat on him to make him feel happier.

Sia’s Story

Laurie had to share a beautiful story about a phone call she received the other day.

A beautiful, compassionate, courageous woman that I met from Houston called to say that she would like to get her white German Shepherd, “Rio”, trained as a Service Dog for her depression, anxiety, and arthritis. She told me the most beautiful story.

Her husband passed away just the beginning of May. They were soulmates. In March, he started losing weight rapidly and his blood sugars started fluctuating. Previously, they had been very adventurous – hiking, sailing, taking cruises – everything – and they are in their late 60s. They had even just returned from a trip to Hawaii, and were ready to settle down, retire, and enjoy their lives.

They took Sia’s husband, Gordon, to the doctor, and he was immediately sent to MD Anderson with the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Gordon was British, and had a wonderful sense of humor, but also was reserved when he started feeling ill – not telling anyone. But their amazing dog, Rio, knew something was wrong. When Gordon stopped eating, Rio stopped eating.

Sia realized that Rio needed to be with Gordon. So she brought him to MD Anderson to visit Gordon. Below is the picture of the visit. Immediately, Gordon’s spirits were lifted, as were Rio’s. Sia spent every day with Gordon in the the two months he was hospitalized – until the day he finally passed away. The staff at MD Anderson were so amazed by Rio’s gentle, loving, healing nature, that they asked Sia if she would consider bringing Rio in some day to visit the children in the cancer ward.

It all happened so suddenly, but Sia had so much family support as they had 9 children combined.

Now, she has decided she needs some time alone with her and Sia. She would like Sia, who is 5, to become her Service Dog to help with her depression, anxiety, and arthritis. Of course, we will help train Sia. But I had to share this beautiful story of love – between a husband and wife, and the love between a dog and his person.

God bless you, Sia. Gordon, rest in true peace.

Welcome to Stephanie & Black Wolf

From our wonderful trainer, Terry, in El Paso, who did an initial assessment and session with Stephanie and her Husky mix, “Black Wolf”.

“Good Day to All,

I provided an assessment for trainability and temperament for “Black Wolf”, who is 1 1/2 years old, located in El Paso, TX. A temperament test was performed on Black Wolf and he passed with no issues to record. Black Wolf has limited knowledge of basic obedience commends. From my observations, I did detect a very strong bond between Stephanie and her SDIT. The dog has a willingness to assist, eagerness to learn, and desire to please his owner. This is a fairly large dog, and the living arrangement with other dogs in an apartment gave me some concern. However, they have areas where the dogs can run and play in a safe environment, while also socializing with other dogs in the complex. I checked the dog for any skin discoloration, scars, protruding bones, teeth decay, and any other sign that might indicate a pending health risk, and none was found. I would highly recommend Stephanie and her dog Black Wolf for training in the Service Dog Express Program.

Kindest regards


Noelle and her SDIT Hazel

Our lovely trainer Brenda had a session with Noelle and her SDIT, “Hazel”. She writes:

“Noelle, Hazel and I met at HEB to work on distractions in public. We walked around the store and stopped to look at things to make Hazel sit and be patient. She did well walking around, mostly heeling and not pulling, and paid no attention to people or carts. She was, however, very distracted by food on the floor. It was a little struggle getting her to sit, but once she did, she stayed put. She did stop every time Noelle stopped. We stopped to sit at a bench outside to have Hazel “down/stay”. That was harder to get her to do, but again, once she was down. she mostly stayed down. Noelle said she minds better at home, doing the commands when they are first given, so I think she needs to do more work out in public. Noelle is going to get some “Pet Corrector” to try and get her attention back faster, and is going to take her out more often, especially to places that Hazel needs to sit or stay and relax to desensitized her and make sure she is ready to take to school next year.”

From our dear client and friend, Christina

From our dear client and friend, Christina, whose husband, a district attorney who helps sexual assault victims like Christina, organized this walk to raise money for other victims! She writes:

“Thank you to everyone who donated to raise funds for Eric’s Walk A Mile In Her Shoes! Eric and Scott you are my heroes! We were in some of the photos that the Palestine Herald – Press posted! A special thank you to Roxy, my forever companion and source of comfort! Your loyalty amazes me!!”

Roxy, her Service Dog, even did the walk!!



Training with Pat, Matthew, who suffers from epilepsy, and his Anatolian Shepherd/Lab mix, Tatiana, passed their Public Access Test. Matthew and Tatiana came to Service Dog Express with some Service Dog training and experience under their belt, and wanted to complete the requirements for the Public Access Test. Tatiana is an affectionate, attentive, and brilliant Anatolian Shepherd mix, about 2 years old. Matthew is legally blind; while he retains adequate eyesight to navigate around his environment, he is unable to drive. The reason he acquired Tatiana to be his Service Dog, however, is that he has a neurological disorder that causes him to have seizures without any noticeable warning.

Pat writes about her training and history with Matthew and Tatiana:

“Within three weeks of adopting Tatiana, Matthew had a huge seizure! Tatiana, with hardly any training at the time, knew exactly what to do. She laid down at Matthew’s head, and wrapped her body around his head and cushioned him from injuring himself! She licked his face until he came down from his episode. Thankfully, Matthew’s seizures have been under control in the year and a half since. Tatiana began her training at that time, but sadly it was interrupted, since his former trainer moved from San Antonio, before they could take the Public Access Test.

During one session, we visited the Target where Matthew works. I wanted to personally evaluate the workplace environment, as Matthew had told me it was not safe for the dog to be there during working hours. He works in the back off-loading trucks, handling and trucks, staging boxes of product and large items, and general hands-on product movement. Other employees are driving fork lifts and other powered handling equipment, and distribution product as Matthew does. Aisles are narrow; product is stocked from floor to ceiling in all spaces except for aisles. This would be a scary environment for Tatiana, and not one where she could relax, or even be safe right with Matthew.

Tatiana and Matthew’s mock Public Access Test elements were completed the week before. Later, I observed whether they would be consistent with their training, and they were. Tatiana had developed some ‘lazy’ habits between the stoppage of her previous training and when we started. She would swing around in front to eyeball Matthew when he stopped walking, and lead him so that he was unable to make turns without yanking her back. All that was fixed during our training, along with fine-tuning distance stays and restaurant behavior.

Consistent public etiquette and obedience behaviors were maintained. Also resolved during our sessions was a reliable recall in the back yard; effective sit and down stays in the house; and an alert to let inside people know she wants to come in the house. We taught her to ring a set of bells hung outside near the door. We also discussed options to this, including installing a doorbell outside and transferring her ‘bell-ringing’ skill to the doorbell.

Over the past two months, Matthew and Tatiana have were tenacious about their training and are excellent students, having passed their Public Access Test! Congratulations to Matthew and Tatiana!”

YAY TEAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Update from Andrew, and Service Dog “Ender”.

A wonderful update from our former client, Andrew, with his Service Dog “Ender”. Andrew is a Crime Prevention Specialist with his County Police Department in Virginia! He is completely dedicated to educating the community about the value of Service Dogs. What a WONDERFUL gift he is giving back! Here is his latest email to us:

Hi Laurie,

Ender and I have now spoken to 4 groups about Service Dogs (definitions, some training requirements, their uses, access permissions, etc.) The first two groups were at a State convention of High School Students that are focusing on entering either human or animal medicine. Out of that, we were asked to speak at a Vocational school that teaches students to become Vet Techs. We have now educated around 150 people with this information. There’s no way that I could handle the groups size without Ender. Of course with his sweet personality and temperament, he really helps build connections and relationships. I am forwarding the email that the instructor from yesterday sent along with two pictures that she took. As you can see, I think we made some progress. I hope that they’ll benefit from the training.

Best Wishes,

“We need the community to be our eyes and ears. We are the hands and feet. Together we can speak with one voice”

Good afternoon, Andrew

Thank you so much for coming in today and speaking to the students. They thoroughly enjoyed it and they learned a great deal. You and Ender are making a difference and you are a great advocate for the service animal. I would love to help out at any point with fundraisers or public events to help educate the public. My students would be interested in any type of public awareness that we can do to support such a wonderful cause. I have attached the photos from today.

I would greatly appreciate it if you would forward me an address in which we can send some words of gratitude. Have a great evening.

Thank you,.
Angela F, LVT
Valley Career and Technical Center
Veterinary Assistant Instructor

Safe rescue of two purebred German Shepherds

Laurie would personally like to express her extreme gratitude to our trainer, Sue, who ensured the safe rescue of two purebred German Shepherds that were at risk of being euthanized at Animal Care Services. I had been contacted by the owners of the dogs who had them for awhile, and the owner, a Wounded Warrior, said they could no longer care for the dogs. I told him immediately that I would personally come and assess the dogs since they live in my area, and that since they knew so much already, we could place them with new Wounded Warriors or clients. Well, I called him back to find out when he would like to do the assessment, and he said he just got “fed up” one day and took them to ACS. I asked him for the ID numbers, and then posted to all our trainers to please see if these dogs could be saved. Thank you to Sue and everyone else that she coordinated with, these two dogs are now safely in foster homes!!! YAY SUE!!!


From our trainer, Kendra, in Houston, who has been training with Wounded Warrior, Angel, and her now SERVICE DOG, “Doc”! THEY PASSED THE PUBLIC ACCESS TEST!!!

Kendra writes:

“At our final session, I met Angel and her now Service Dog, Doc, at the mall for the PAT. We were originally just going to do a training session, but because Doc is so very smart and his mom had already had Doc trained by the time first met them, we only had a few things to work on. We worked a “stay” with Angel walking in circles around Doc and also a stay while Angel went out of Docs sight. After that, we did a walk through just to verify if Doc was indeed ready as I thought he was. He did great! He went through the PAT like it was nothing! We sat at the food court and dropped food directly on the floor right in front of him. We couldn’t help laugh because he really held back! You could tell he really wanted that biscuit but he didn’t get it. When we were ready to move on we did tell him he could have it for doing so awesome! He did meet and greets, we made tons of noise, from ramming a buggy into that metal gate, to dropping my clip board behind him as he was walking. He is a pro! He will serve him Angel well! I am so proud of both of them!”

Doc, Trainer Kendra and Angel