Category Archives: Air Force

Congratulations to Elizabeth and SD Beatrice


From Laurie:  They passed the Public Access Test at the mall despite all the crowds! I am so proud of Elizabeth! She is WAY too humble to take credit for all the work she did training Beatrice in between sessions, but she did an amazing job and Beatrice is the PERFECT Service Dog. Most importantly – the way that Elizabeth shares Beatrice with all who ask to pet her – children and adults – is beyond beautiful. Elizabeth realizes how much joy Beatrice brings to everyone she meets – and Elizabeth shares that joy openly. Of course, when it’s time to work, Beatrice works – but the beauty of it is not only that Elizabeth has an amazing Service Dog that does her job – but that she teaches others and shows by example. I must say, the funniest part of it was going through the fancy department stores with their Gucci and Armani and perfectly coiffed sales people with a small horse and surprising them at every turn! I think Beatrice preferred the new perfume by Estee Lauder the best. TEE HEE. My husband, Joey, even tried to taunt Beatrice with a French Fry at the food court, but Beatrice showed him!

I am going to miss my dear, dear friend Elizabeth and beautiful, drooling Beatrice when they move!! Elizabeth’s new job will entail her continuing to help our Wounded Warriors – but now that she has Beatrice by her side, I think just seeing that humungous, loveable Service Dog will heal others better than any drug!!


Letty is a Fighter – Breast Cancer Will Lose

Very shocking news about one of our dear, dear Service Dog Express trainers, and also my dear, wonderful friend, Letty Pugh. I know a lot of you had the extreme honor of training your Service Dogs with her. She has given me permission to post this. I don’t say “sad” news, because Letty’s spirit is as strong and optimistic as anyone I know. From our dear Letty:

“Ok, friends and family. Here’s the scoop….I was diagnosed with breast cancer last week. I’m putting it out on FB for two reasons. 1) I’m only 43 years old. It does happen to women our age and there is never a good reason to NOT have your mammogram done. In order to be there for the ones you love, make a little time to get your boobs hugged! ! 2) I need your prayers. I’ve chosen to have a total mastectomy on my left breast on Tuesday, 25NOV. After the surgery, I’ll be staged and will start treatment (treatment will be determined as a result of the tumor pathology).

If any of you have any questions, please, ask. I’m not afraid nor am I freaking out. The kids, Marlon and my parents are all extremely strong. Other then that…….I LOVE YOU!”

I have spoken with Letty, and she it truly at peace with this. As usual, she takes things in stride, believes all things happen for a reason, and chooses to focus on the positives in her life. Of course, as an integral part of our Service Dog Express family for so long, my feelings about her are impossible to put into words – but I am gathering all the love and prayer I have in my heart and sending it to her and her beautiful family – her husband, Marlon, her children, and her doggies. Her Service Dog, Bentley, who is deaf, will be at her side as she recovers from her surgery at SAMMC. Please, all whose lives she has touched, let her know how much you care.

Show Letty your support:  Letty on Facebook

Unbelievable kindness

Unbelievable kindness. Ken, a Wounded Warrior who has Service Dog “Mozart”, does this amazing artwork. He is donating proceeds from the sale of it to help wounded warriors get funding for Service Dog training with Service Dog Express!!! THANK YOU KEN!!!!!

Helping Veterans suffering from PTSD the oppurtunity to adopt  service dogs to assist in their rehabilitation at no cost
Helping Veterans suffering from PTSD the opportunity to adopt service dogs to assist in their rehabilitation at no cost

Manakenn Art 2014

Look at this beautiful artwork done by former client, Wounded Warrior Ken, with SD Mozart!! For each sculpture he sells, a portion of the proceeds he will donate to our non-profit, In Dog We Trust!! THANK YOU AND BLESS YOU KEN!!!!

Helping Veterans suffering from PTSD the oppurtunity to adopt  service dogs to assist in their rehabilitation at no cost
Helping Veterans suffering from PTSD the opportunity to adopt service dogs to assist in their rehabilitation at no cost

Joseph and Viva

An update from training with Wounded Warrior, Joseph, and his SDIT, Viva, who he adopted from In Dog We Trust, rescued by Ms. Cherry Jenkins. Joseph has been in the Air Force for 5 years, but due to several very difficult deployments, has decided to Med-Board out while still serving due to extreme PTSD and shoulder and back injuries. Joseph and Viva have an extremely close bond, and every time Joseph gets nervous (i.e. the minute he steps out his front door), he spends completely focused time on Viva to help calm him and reorient him. Viva also wakes Joseph from his night terrors, which happen approximately 4 times per night during the 4 hours of sleep he gets! This last session, Joseph begrudgingly but with a smile, let me take Viva and him to Petsmart – our first time. Joseph is very hyper-vigilant in parking lots, and I noticed him looking cautiously all around him even walking to his truck, which was parked a good walk away. BUT, Viva already has the front, back, and side covers down naturally, and she is, by nature of her breed, very alert, so I kept explaining to Joseph that he can let down his guard a little – Viva’s on the lookout for him – which she was, everywhere she went. It was very easy to see this behavior in both of them both outside of and inside the store.

Joseph and Viva have the “wait” command down perfectly, so Viva will not enter or exit a building until Joseph says it is ok! Joseph took a deep breath, spent some time talking to and hugging Viva, and they did absolutely perfect controlled loads and unloads into the vehicle, and finally into Petsmart. We got a cart, and the place was quite crowded, which is good for training. We had a long list of things for Joseph to get, so we took our time going up and down aisles with Viva in a perfect heel at all times. Her head would constantly turn inward to do a natural “watch me” with Joseph to ‘check in’, then her head would turn while staying in a heel to keep an eye out on the surroundings. It was very obvious that Viva is extremely in tune with Joseph’s anxiety (he was beet red and sweating a bit during our time there, but was such a trooper and kept on going!) We got all the items we needed, and when Joseph started to feel overwhelmed, he got down and played with Viva.

Next, I asked him if he was ready to do just ONE meet and greet. He took a deep breath, and said that he had gotten this far, why not! I reminded him how amazingly well he was doing – this was literally his first time in a store for more than 5 minutes since the return from his last deployment (his neighbors do his grocery shopping for him – I told him he needs to eat more because he’s losing weight and his fridge is empty!) So, we approached a kind family with adults and children, explained that this was a SDIT, and that they had to ask Joseph first before petting Viva. Joseph did so well – and said of course they could – even giving them treats to give Viva while she stayed in a sit. He was beaming after that. He then wanted to go and do another one with a single adult and he did it all by himself!

Joseph is also very alarmed by unexpected loud noises, so I told him before each exercise that i was going to create a loud distraction behind him by throwing something non-breakable close by as he walked away, and I wanted him to continue walking and watch Viva’s reaction. We did this several times, and each time, Joseph jumped a tiny bit, but watched as Viva merely looked back at the noise and then went back into a heel. I explained to Joseph that that is exactly what she and he needed to do – Viva WILL alert if there is something dangerous approaching (which there has not been yet), but Joseph can TRUST that Viva will “have his back”. Viva is very picky about her toys, so there’s a picture of a stuffed lamb Joseph pretended was a little doggie with Viva. Even after checkout and along, two hour session, we got back to the truck, at night, and Joseph was so proud of himself and Viva although he would never admit it, and I told him how proud I was of him. Then he turned around and said, “Can we go back in? I want to get one more thing!” That was AWESOME! We went back, got the item, and Joseph had his head held high. WHAT A TRIUMPH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Meet and Greet – Robert and Crash

From trainer Beverly and her son, Andrew, also a trainer, who had the first meeting with Wounded Warrior, SMSgt Robert, who suffers from PTSD.

“We met in Selma for the initial meet and greet with Robert and Crash and Andrew reviewed what Crash had been learning previously – sit, down, watch me, heel, leave it, and short stay. We discussed what he had been eating, his routines and any habits that may require more work. Robert and Crash hit it off right away, and Robert decided he wanted to pick Crash up on Saturday (giving him time to get things for the Temporary Living Facility (TLF)  he is staying in.)

On Saturday afternoon, we met in Kingsbury, and Andrew and Bob took Crash to D&D feed to get food, and show Bob what they had been working on in public. The meeting went well and follow up phone calls have shown a few new things to work on (nothing totally unexpected for a major change) – but everyone is adjusting to their new life together. We will be scheduling a training session soon, since Bob is going to be having surgery and we need to make certain that Crash adjusts to the limitations ASAP.”

Dear Friend and Former Trainer

From our dear friend and former trainer, Tony. Thank you, Tony – your words always have and always will mean the world to me and to all of us – and your opinions are very important to me and all of us at SDE:

“As a client and former trainer I have the utmost respect for Laurie and Service Dog Express, She has made my life so much better and I can handle the simple everyday tasks that most take for granted when she paired me with my properly assessed dog Lucy (God bless you Laurie and what you did for me).

As trainers, the client should come first; their needs are off utmost importance.

I think off myself as not only a client but as an ambassador for Service Dog. I try to educate the public as much as I can, but having just one aggressive hyper or skittish dog can make it so much harder for the public to understand what we are doing or what the dog is for, so a properly assessed dog is essential. I know we would like to place all the dogs with homes but they all can’t be a Service Dog!!..

I get so many compliments on how well behaved my dog is in public; it is a proud and calming feeling to me. So thank you so much Laurie for all that you have done to make my life a lot easier..

Tony Cuciniello
( Service Dog Lucy)”


Joseph and Viva

Here is the PERFECT match – Joseph, a compassionate, gentle, courageous Wounded Warrior who I have been working with for about a month. He saw Viva, who was rescued, fostered, and trained by Cherry Jenkins of In Dog We Trust. The meet and greet went wonderfully, and there was an instant bond between them. Joseph has served 5 years in the Air Force and the last two deployments left him with severe PTSD. Viva has already made a huge difference in his life; he said that she sleeps close to him in the bed and he feels comforted by her when he wakes. He has been working on all the commands with her, most of which she knows well, and he is a lot more comfortable going out into public because of her. He even takes her to work now, where she acts perfectly!! We thank Joseph for his service and wish him and Viva all the very best for the future, and will continue training until she has passed the PAT! Joseph’s goals for the future (he is still active duty but undeployable) is to go to college and work in the field of forestry!

5 dogs for 5 Wounded Warriors

We at Service Dog Express have had a quite eventful and absolutely fulfilling experience the past two Saturdays! It started over a month ago, when one of our clients with his SD was attending the inpatient Wounded Warrior PTSD clinic at Laurel Ridge Psychiatric Hospital here in San Antonio. So many of the other Wounded Warriors there were astounded by this client’s SD, that we started getting phonecalls from the inpatients asking if they could obtain SDs.

Coordinating it all was extremely difficult, but over two Saturdays we were able to bring together our trainers, various fosters, rescues from In Dog We Trust, and a TON of dogs onto the unit to meet and greet all the potential clients. It was a tremendous success!! I’m sure the front lobby wasn’t too happy with the parade of hair most likely left from all the dogs we brought, but I am SO pleased to say that we matched up 5 dogs with these Wounded Warriors!!!!! It was like a grand opening shopping event!

The most amazing thing was to see how each warrior’s countenance and demeanor changed when the dogs were brought into the unit. Their sad eyes brightened, they were excited, frowns turned to smiles, as they petted and met each of the dogs. Even the staff seemed happier! So, the 5 new adopters will receive their dogs once they are released from the inpatient unit – all papers were signed – and we will train with them once they are released.

I wish I could have taken pictures, but it is against Laurel Ridge policy. Thank you to everyone who participated in these monumental days – and five new dogs now will have forever homes!!!!!


Regarding the post above about Laurel Ridge. Those of you who posted such incredibly negative postings were uninformed and unaware of how this process worked. I will not waste my time justifying your hatred, I will only present the facts so you can be a little bit more “educated” about how this process worked.

We were sent client submission forms from several of these Wounded Warriors who are in the TRANSITION unit at Laurel Ridge. The DOCTORS at Laurel Ridge who observed what a difference the SD, Sassy, had made with this one Wounded Warrior wrote PRESCRIPTIONS for these select Wounded Warriors for a Service Dog based upon what they observed in the healing process that took place between Sassy and his owner. They INVITED us to come. We did not initiate this. The warriors met the dogs on two separate occasions – which took hours and hours of work on behalf of our fosters, trainers, and the staff at Laurel Ridge. NONE of these inpatients received dogs while still inpatients. They were prescribed the dogs as part of the HEALING process when they are eventually released back into the civilian world. EVERY single dog that was chosen by a Wounded Warrior, again, with the ADVICE of their doctor or caseworker will not be receiving the dog until they are back home. Each Wounded Warrior who has chosen a dog has also been assigned a TRAINER from Service Dog Express to follow-up with them on training and helping them reintegrate into society just as we do any other Wounded Warrior who comes to us seeking the healing aid of a Service Dog. I don’t know where this term “contract” came up that many of you are referring to – the warriors simply chose a dog that they spent several hours with accompanied by a trainer to see if it were a good fit – and if they decided, again, along with their doctors or caseworkers that the match was well made, the ADOPTION papers were signed so that each warrior was properly matched with their dog. In addition, all dogs, no matter how far along in their Service Dog training they were (ALL now basic commands), were DONATED to these Wounded Warriors. No “money” was made off of this for any of us. We all did this out of the goodness of our hearts and because we, again, were INVITED by Laurel Ridge. In fact, we have been invited back AGAIN to work with some more Wounded Warriors in the female unit who will be transitioning back into civilian life because the DOCTORS and CASEWORKERS were so impressed with the high caliber of dogs we brought and how carefully we assessed each warrior and the dog they chose – again – ALL GIVEN PRESCRIPTIONS BY THEIR PHYSICIANS OR CASEWORKERS for this incredible experience to heal with a Service Dog by their sides. And I am NOT going to delete and ban all you naysayers until you have had a chance to read this – because you have ALL missed the point. What we have done at Service Dog Express by helping these Wounded Warriors is given them hope and joy – if you had been there to see the way their faces lighted up when they realized they could benefit from a Service Dog – the literal tears of joy – you would all be saying the exact OPPOSITE of what you posted and “shared”. These Service Dogs will, as always, be part of the healing process for these men and women who are now going back home, many alone, to civilian life – and their spirits have been uplifted by knowing that they will have a “Battle Buddy” by their side. Again, these dogs, who we normally charge adoption fees for because of the amount of training we have put into them, were given to these men and women for FREE. Maybe you all should be looking at the fact that more lives will be SAVED because of what we did – it was in all respects a labor of love for all of us involved – instead of focusing on the ridiculous comments that imply we did this to “make money” or to “prey on vulnerable people”. If you have issue with this, ask the doctors and caseworkers who finally thought “out of the box” and realized by actually SEEING the healing power of these dogs – and prescribed them for our amazing warriors to help them in their new lives. So, from what has been written below, it seems that everyone who posted such vulgar and uninformed posts would rather see our valiant men and women rely on drugs and get shoved out into the world back into loneliness and reliance upon drugs and other unhealthy methods to “cope” instead of knowing they will have a highly trained and continuously trained Service Dog to be by their sides. All I can say is shame on you. You care more about what you “think” Service Dog Express cares about – money, publicity, etc., than actually what we DO care about – and that is enhancing the lives of all of those who can benefit from a Service Dog. Shame on you.

New Client, Wounded Warrior, Joseph

I had the honor of meeting a new client, Wounded Warrior, Joseph! Joseph served in the Air Force for 5 years, and is still active duty – but will be getting out very soon due to his disabilities. Our first training session lasted 6 hours – but for wonderful reasons!! Joseph is as kind, polite, and humble as one could imagine. He had three terrible deployments in his 5 years, and finally acknowledged, after suppressing his ever-increasing PTSD, that he had to get out of the military to literally save his life. He entered a wonderful inpatient program at Laurel Ridge for Wounded Warriors with PTSD and TBI, completed that, and is now in their outpatient program. At Laurel Ridge, Joseph met a former client of ours, Jason, with his SD, Sassy, and Jason told Joseph how much having a Service Dog had enhanced his life. Right then, Joseph decided he wanted a Service Dog to help with his daily life of isolation and fear of going out into the public.

I talked extensively with Joseph, and he had seen the write-up about SDIT, Viva, who was rescued and being trained by Cherry Jenkins and our non-profit arm, In Dog We Trust. So, I hopped in my car and Joseph hopped in his, and off we went to meet Viva, about 45 minutes away. I explained to Joseph that when he met Viva, he would know within about 15 minutes if there was a bond between them. BOY, WAS THERE EVER!!!!! Cherry did a wonderful job training Viva the basics, and Joseph and I did training on such things as heeling, sit, down, snuggle, and stay. Joseph and Viva were so happy together. Seeing Joseph smile and show joy and a reprieve from his negative thoughts by hugging, holding, and petting Viva for a long time was so moving to see, it brought Cherry and I to tears. Joseph was completely focused on Viva, and it was a total transformation in his demeanor.

Joseph adopted Viva, and then I said to Joseph – “You know, now we have to go to Petsmart to get all of Viva’s needed items”. Joseph quickly realized that this would be the first time he had gone into any public place for an extended period of time. When we got to Petsmart, I asked Joseph, who was already anxious, if he wanted me to go in and get the items, or if he wanted to try to go in to this crowded place. He took a deep breath, and said he wanted to try!

So many people asked about Viva and approached Joseph asking to pet Viva – and instead of ignoring them, Joseph did it!!! We then went into the store, and actually spent about 45 minutes getting all supplies needed for a new dog! I could tell that Joseph was struggling with the whole situation by his body posture, sweating, and face turning red – BUT HE DID IT!!!! Just the day before, his counselor had asked Joseph to TRY to enter a Wal-Mart for a few minutes, but he stood outside and couldn’t do it. I noticed Joseph bending down to hug and scratch Viva very often at Petsmart – exactly what he needed to do to ease his anxiety – and Viva gave him that comfort.

When we walked out of Petsmart, we stood there while Joseph took several deep breaths, and I asked him, “Do you realize what an amazing accomplishment you just made? You stayed in the store despite your feelings like you just wanted to run out. You spoke to people who approached you – and you used Viva to help you stay and refocus away from the crowds.” He acknowledged what a triumph he had just made. He admitted he wanted to run about 10 minutes before we left, but he stayed.

I could not have been prouder of him, and I reminded him of what a huge step in his recovery he had just made. He couldn’t wait to let his counselor know the next day that he had done this!!!! He said that focusing on Viva and knowing I also had his back made it possible for him. I think he knew that his life was now changed and his ability to become a person that could do “normal” things in the future was becoming a reality.

Since that first session, he has slept with Viva every night – and although Joseph has nightly night terrors, he would watch Viva sleep and when SHE seemed to be having nightmares in her sleep, he would gently wake her and let her know she was safe. Here he was, used to consistently plagued by a lack of sleep due to his PTSD, helping his new battle buddy.

Joseph brought Viva to outpatient therapy for the entire next day. The next thing I knew, there were several patients on the Laurel Ridge campus, all Wounded Warriors who saw Viva, asking me how they could get Service Dogs. So, since Saturday is “visitors” day, next Saturday, Cherry, her husband Gregg, myself, and my husband are going to bring down a “caravan” of ALL the dogs in In Dog We Trust’s care to Laurel Ridge to make more matches!!