Category Archives: Air Force

Brain Injury Awareness Month – Caring for Military Families: The Elizabeth Dole FoundationCaring for Military Families: The Elizabeth Dole Foundation

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation recognized Brain Injury Awareness Month by calling attention to the unique needs and resources available to those who care for service members and veterans who sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI). More than 320,000 service members have returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with a TBI, and the Foundation’s …

Source: Brain Injury Awareness Month – Caring for Military Families: The Elizabeth Dole FoundationCaring for Military Families: The Elizabeth Dole Foundation


Service Dog Express's photo.


San Antonio trainer Sue tested Tracy and her Great Pyrenees, “Daisy”. Tracy suffers from agoraphobia, anxiety, depression, mobility issues, panic attacks, PTSD, and night terrors.

Tracy needs Daisy to be able to accompany her in public and to be able to go to stores where she would freeze up when walking in. Daisy was also trained to wake Tracy up every morning for work when her husband was TDY for six weeks. Daisy naturally helps with ‘reduction of hyper-vigilance through teamwork’. Bottom line is that Daisy makes Tracy feel safe.

Always=All the time
Mostly=Most of the time (more than half of time)
Sometimes=Some of the time (half or less of the time)
Never=Never demonstrated the skill
The team must score all ‘Always’ or’ Mostly’ ’ responses on the A-M-S-N parts of the test.
The team must score at least 80% “YES” answers on the “YES” “NO” portion of the test.
All questions marked by an asterisk (*) must be answered by a “YES” response.


Daisy did not try to leave vehicle until given release command.

Daisy waited in the vehicle until released.* Yes
Daisy waited outside the vehicle under control. Yes
Daisy remained under control while another dog was walked. Yes


Relative heel position, not straining or forging.

Daisy stayed in relative heel position. Always
Daisy was calm around traffic.* Yes
Daisy stopped when Tracy came to a halt. Always


Daisy waited quietly at the door until commanded to enter.* Yes
Daisy waited on the inside until able to return to heel position.*


Daisy was within the prescribed distance of Tracy. Always
Daisy ignored the public, remaining focused on Tracy. Always
Daisy readily adjusted to speed changes. Always
Daisy readily turned corners–did not have to be tugged or jerked to change direction. Always
Daisy readily maneuvered through tight quarters. Always


Daisy responded readily to the recall command–did not stray away, seek attention from others, or trudge slowly.* Yes
Daisy remained under control and focused on Tracy.* Yes
Daisy came within the prescribed distance of Tracy.* Yes
Daisy came directly to Tracy.* Yes


Daisy responded promptly to the command to sit. Mostly
Daisy remained under control around food–not trying to get food and not needing repeated corrections.* Yes
Daisy remained composed while the shopping cart passed–did not shy away, show signs of fear, etc.* Yes
Daisy maintained a sit-stay while being petted by a stranger.* Yes


Daisy responded promptly to the command to down. Mostly
Daisy remained under control around the food–not trying to get food and not needing repeated corrections.* Yes
Daisy remained in control while the child approached – child should not taunt Daisy or be overly dramatic.* Yes


If Daisy jumps, turns, or shows a quick startle type reaction, that is fine. Daisy should not show fear, aggression, or continue to be affected by the noise.

Daisy remained composed during the noise distraction.* Yes


Daisy is unobtrusive and out of the way of patrons and employees as much as possible.* Yes
Daisy maintained proper behavior, ignoring food and being quiet.* Yes


When told to drop the leash, the team maintained control and Tracy got the leash back in position.* Yes


Another person can take Daisy’s leash and Tracy can move away without aggression or undue stress on the part of Daisy.* Yes


Daisy stayed in relative heel position. Always
Daisy was calm around traffic.* Yes
Daisy stopped when Tracy came to a halt. Always


Daisy waited until commanded to enter the vehicle. Yes
Daisy readily entered the vehicle upon command. Yes


When Daisy did well, Tracy praised Daisy. Always
Daisy is relaxed, confident, and friendly. Always
Tracy kept Daisy under control. Always
Tracy was prepared with proper working materials and equipment in case of an access confrontation (laws, etc.). Yes

Capone’s Success Story

The animal rescue world is challenging on the best of days. We see the broken and unwanted of the City of San Antonio on a daily basis. One of the most unforgettable of those days was 5 weeks ago, when Capone walked through our door. He was starving, with patches of hair missing, broken teeth, and his ears jagged and cropped…you won’t believe his transformation…read more at  SAPA – San Antonio Pets Alive | Capone’s Story

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.

Wounded Warrior Jamie and SDiT Zulu

HA! I put Wounded Warrior, amazing Jamie, and her SDIT, Zulu, through the fun part of training today at Walmart! Zulu has been at Petsmart, HEB, and other stores, where he knows every command perfectly. He can walk tied to the shopping cart, do meet and greets, sit, down, sit/stay, down/stay, controlled entry and exit in and out of a car and building, heels perfectly – Jamie, still active duty – has done an AMAZING job with Zulu. It’s truly beyond belief. Either Zulu was trained in another life, or Jamie is just that good! As a team, they function perfectly. Covers, come, leave it – you name it, they can do it.

So this time, I rode into training in the motorized shopping carts to greet them at Walmart. Jamie laughed and Zulu’s huge beautiful ears perked up and he did that adorable “head tilt” he does when he is seeing something new and strange! We immediately started walking together, and Zulu wasn’t fazed by the electric cart. He was shaking a little bit because there were SO many people at this hour, but with constant reassurance from Jamie and I and treats when Zulu started to get acclimated, it was a breeze!

Of course, I made Jamie sit in the cart after Zulu got used to it, and she tied his leash at the perfect length so Zulu could heel safely. Zulu quickly adjusted to this new contraption – even when Jamie backed it up and it made that “beeping” noise. We navigated small aisles, and Zulu adjusted his body to the changes in direction and went through narrow spaces without hesitation. I created as many distractions as I could – bouncing balls, a hula-hoop, the large screen TVs, children’s toys, opening and closing the freezer doors with Zulu’s head close to the “whooshing” noise, etc. We did sit/stays and down/stays in the back, and even the Walmart employees were astounded! Zulu stays right by Jamie’s side off leash, and will “cover” naturally.

We finished by sitting at McDonald’s to see how Zulu would do with all the smells and people. He preferred to sit close to Jamie’s side, but away from any possible traffic.

The most beautiful thing happened, too. I was SO glad Jamie got to witness it. A couple came up to us with a little girl in the seat area of a shopping cart. They were watching the training, and asked if a Service Dog could help their adorable daughter, who was sadly born with a condition that left her with only half of her brain. The couple explained that she only responds to certain things and says minimal words – but she loved dogs. She kept holding her little arms out as if she wanted to touch Zulu, and she had the biggest smile on her face. With the parents’ permission, we had Zulu jump up to put his paws on the cart and let the little girl pet Zulu – and Zulu covered her with kisses!! We spent some time talking with them about how a Service Dog could help her, and they were so happy! At the end, the little girl actually said “doggie” the best way she could! It was a tear-jerking moment; one that had a tremendous effect on Jamie. Jamie will hopefully come onto our team as a trainer – she’s that good and has a heart of gold.

Oh – and Jamie will be attending a birthday party for her nephew who loves everything Ninja Turtle, so of course, we had to try on Ninja shirts on Zulu and even a turtle shell costume!!

We will be performing the Public Access Test next week!

Wounded Warrior Jamie and SDiT Zulu

Laurie had the AMAZINGLY distinct pleasure of meeting and training with Wounded Warrior, Jamie, who suffers from a back injury and anxiety, and her MAGNIFICENT German Shepherd, ZULU!!!!

Laurie writes:

When I first opened the door, I was simply aghast at how strikingly beautiful this dog was. If I could handcraft a German Shepherd, it would look like Zulu! From the very beginning, Zulu was polite, responded to Jamie’s commands, made absolutely incredible eye contact, took treats gently, and already knew “sit”, “down”, “sit/stay”, “down/stay” (even when I disappeared out of sight), “heel”, “wait”, “leave it” with food, “load”, “unload” – just incredible. And Jamie herself – what an amazingly compassionate, gentle, kind, and brilliant person – who I felt like I had known for years!!!

I was astounded at how much training she had already done with Zulu. I asked her how she did it! She was so humble – and just smiled and shrugged her shoulders and said that she and her partner read the manual (an added star for her!), but had already done training with Zulu by themselves based upon their knowledge of dogs and what they had seen with the military dogs (using POSITIVE reinforcement only). Zulu, who is 18 months old, is playful yet extremely gentle with her little tiny Maltipoo brother, “Sarge”, and they get along famously. Zulu has that adorable quirk in German Shepherds with big tall ears where if you say something in high-pitched voice and tilt your head, she tilts her head along with you – then again, then again! It was adorable!! But truly, the eye contact was impeccable. I encouraged Jamie to use the “watch me” command as often as possible to reinforce this.

After I had done all these commands with Zulu on our first meeting, then Jamie demonstrated the ability to do exactly the same – except, of course, the stays were a bit more difficult because Zulu has an amazing bond with Jamie, and doesn’t like it when she disappears around the corner!! After the session, we went into the backyard, and Zulu amazed me AGAIN! Jamie can throw the ball, tell Zulu to “get it”, Zulu runs like wildfire, Jamie says “bring it”, then with “give it”, Zulu will either drop it right at her feet, or we worked on having Zulu gently put it in Jamie’s hands. Jamie will continue to work on this because with her severe back pain, it will be beneficial for Zulu to be able to retrieve items. We will continue to work on that with different household items.

At our second session, we met at Petsmart. Zulu performed perfect heels with the prong collar held upright in just the perfect direction and fit. I tried many different types of distractions walking behind Zulu and dropping items, and Zulu did not break her heel. We navigated through aisles using the words “left” and “right”. There weren’t many dogs there at the time, but the ones that were there, we asked if Zulu could meet, and whatever breed or size they were, Zulu did a loving, appropriate “sniffing” how-do-you-do, and all dogs reacted positively to her. We did several meet and greets, and Zulu had a bit of difficulty staying in the “sit” position because she wanted to approach the child or adult, so we will work on that. We did meet and talk with a Vietnam Veteran who was in a motorized wheelchair, and he just loved Zulu. We gave him treats to put in his hands, and it was a bit awkward for him because of his arthritis, but he was absolutely willing and excited and Zulu was gentle taking the treats, and then let the man pet her as we stood and talked with him for about 10 minutes. Zulu was patient, eventually just lying down while we finished our conversation. That is important for a Service Dog.

We then took a shopping cart, and safely tied Zulu’s leash to the cart giving her just the right amount of leash to heel alongside the cart, but not so much that she could go in front of the cart – which is extremely important. You always want the dog to be in a heel position next to any shopping cart so that it can still respond to commands such as sit, watch me, etc. Zulu adapted flawlessly, even when Jamie did maneuvers like backing up quickly and taking tight turns. Zulu repositioned her body easily to each change in direction.

Next, we will meet at Walmart at 6 pm when it is busy! And I forgot to mention – Zulu already naturally responds to Jamie when her anxiety levels are high or she is in pain by going to her and applying pressure or just snuggling to comfort her. These two will be ready to pass the PAT in no time!!

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

Don and Herman

Our trainer, Andrew, had a wonderful session with Don, a Wounded Warrior with PTSD and social anxiety who writes that he would like his Service Dog, Herman, “To be present with me in 90% of my activities. I wish to do car trips with him. He gives purpose to the things I do, including volunteer work at the hospital, church, or Police Department”. What a beautiful sentiment!

Andrew writes: “During this session, we went over the basics; “sit”, “down”, “wait”, “heel (loose)”, “don’t pull”, and some classical conditioning. This process is very effective, as Herman is already very well under control! The bond that he has with Don is joyful and happy. Herman is very attentive and very well-behaved. They are already well-practiced at walking to the coffee shop off leash!”