Category Archives: Army

Kendra’s selfless act

Here are some bittersweet pictures of the day Kendra, our client from New Jersey, and her mother flew in with TBI and PTSD trained Service Dog Sadie, so that they could hand her off to a client that needed her more than Kendra now that she is recovering. It was a very, very difficult day for Kendra and her dear, loving mother – but they knew in their hearts that there was someone out there who could fully utilize Sadie’s amazing skills. Sadie is staying with the most wonderful foster – Jill – and will be meeting her hopefully new “dad” with PTSD and TBI, Wounded Warrior James, this coming week!!

Kendra and her mother arrived back home in New Jersey, and they have definitely felt the absence of this amazing Service Dog that they have had for almost her entire life. But both Kendra and her mother are so strong – they fight back their tears with the reminder that Sadie will continue to help someone else and retain the amazing, loving spirit that only Kendra could have instilled in Sadie.

Here are some pictures of the last day they had together. Of course, they will always have visitation rights!!!!


Denise and Sandy

From our wonderful trainer, Brenda, who is working with Denise. Denise is a Vietnam Era Veteran with PTSD due to MST while on active duty. She also got hurt in basic training, which over the years led to her being in a wheelchair. She can walk and stand for short periods, but not much more.

“Denise, her SDIT, Sandy and I spent the first half of the session with Denise showing me all the things they had been practicing since our last session. Sandy is now doing exceptional at “sit”, “down”, “sitting back up from down position”, and “watch me with verbal and hand commands and without treats”; “waiting” for her treat when she does get one; she is “heeling” perfectly either next to Denise or just in front of her wheelchair. Sandy is now much better when she sees a dog or cat – no longer barking, and Denise can get Sandy’s focus back easier. I gave her some suggestions to fine tune her training even more. Denise needs Sandy to be able to go on the bus with her, so to prepare for that, we practiced with my wheelchair-accessible van. I was inside, lowered the ramp so Sandy would know to “sit/stay” while it’s lowered and get used to the sound, and then Denise would give her the command to “load”. She caught on quickly, so we will go on the bus the next session.

At the next session, we worked on public and bus training. This was Sandy’s first time on a bus and in the store. Sandy waited patiently for the ramp to come down and wasn’t bothered by it! I entered/exited the bus, first backwards to help coax her while Denise told Sandy to unload. She was very nervous and unsure the first time, but did much better on the return trip. She laid down and was perfect on the ride! At HEB, Sandy and Denise entered perfectly. At first, Sandy was a little distracted by the people and smells, but by the time we left, she wasn’t paying much attention to anyone or the food. She mostly stayed where she was supposed to and will do better navigating as she learns “left and right”. Denise is starting to work on that with her.

I dropped something loudly while I was rolling behind them to create a distraction. Sandy glanced back to see what the noise was, but didn’t stop walking! She was very patient while Denise looked at things and waited in line. I was very impressed for Sandy’s first time in HEB and on the bus! She is quickly catching on to what is expected of her and I anticipate her being even better when we work on it again this weekend. They are such a pleasure to work with!

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

Vietnam Era Veteran Denise and Sandy

From our trainer, Brenda, who is working with Wounded Warrior, Denise. Denise is a Vietnam Era Veteran with PTSD due to Military Sexual Trauma (MST) while on active duty. Her PTSD was so strong that she has been a Mental Health patient for almost 25 years. This is devastating, as we all knew that those who fought in Vietnam rarely received the treatment they so desperately needed. Denise also got hurt in basic training, which progressed over the years and led to her being in a wheelchair. She can walk and stand for short periods, but not much more. Her SDIT, Sandy, is already very well-trained in obedience – a remarkable and admirable feat for someone who has been through all that Denise has had to endure.

Brenda, also in a wheelchair, had two sessions with Denise and Sandy. She writes:

“At our first session, I went through the initial assessment of Denise’s needs and Sandy’s behavior. We went over all indoor Public Access Test, such as “sit”, “stay”, “down”, “watch me”, etc. I also had Denise show me what she had worked on with Sandy most recently. She “comes” and “sit/stays” extremely well. Sandy is very motivated by treats as well as praise, and caught on quickly to “down.” She will be easy to work with!

At our second session, we went outside to finish going through the outdoor Public Access Commands. Sandy heels well next to the wheelchair, but just needs a bit of refinement. Sandy has a perfectly controlled “load” and “unload” into a vehicle, and maintains very good focus on Denise, ignoring most distractions. However, Denise said that Sandy is very protective of her when other dogs approach, but Denise can get her calm again quite easily. I worked on outside “downs” with her. Denise is going to work on “sit-stay-come” with increasing distances. She is going to start using a cane at times, and I told her I will train Sandy to adjust to this so that Denise doesn’t hurt her back.”

Wayne Kyle, Bradley Cooper and Letty

Bradley Cooper and Letty

Our beloved trainer, Letty, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity the other day while she was at San Antonio Military Medical Center!! Bradley Cooper, star of the new movie coming out, “American Sniper”, came to pay a visit to the Wounded Warriors at SAMMC. He was accompanied by the actual sniper, Chris Kyle’s, father, Wayne Kyle on January 14th. Letty, who was having a rough day at the hospital, heard that Bradley was there, and they found him! Letty got to talk to Bradley and Wayne intimately – the movie addresses Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in depth – and Letty talked to them about Service Dog Express and how we train Service Dogs for Wounded Warriors with PTSD – and they gave her big hugs and so many thanks!

Wayne Kyle and Letty

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!”

Wounded Warrior Andrew and SDIT Mozzie

Please – EVERYONE with a Service Dog in Training, I would like you to please watch these amazing videos sent by long-distance Wounded Warrior client, Andrew, and his SDIT, Mozzie.

Mozzie, formerly known as “Ozzie”, was paired with a Wounded Warrior, Marine Andrew, while at Laurel Ridge. Andrew was in treatment for PTSD and TBI, and photophobia-induced migraines (notice the sunglasses in the videos. They did not hinder eye contact at all) . Andrew initially wrote to us the following: “I received a recommendation from my therapist and from my psychiatrist for a service dog. I came across Ozzie on the Service Dog Express website and he seems like a perfect fit for my personality, family, and upcoming life situation.”

Ozzie was found by Cherry Jenkins of In Dog We Trust rescue, and was being fostered by an amazing family in Houston. Ozzie was in a household where they could not keep him due to extenuating circumstances. Joey and I drove halfway to meet Ozzie and his “dad”, with whom he was extremely bonded. The father had tears in his eyes when we left with Ozzie, but he knew that Ozzie had amazing potential and wanted to donate him to Service Dog Express so that he could help a Wounded Warrior. Ozzie was basically completely untrained, but it was his ability to bond with his owner that let us know Ozzie could do this. Andrew and the donating family are in contact and Andrew provides them Mozzie updates.

We then took Ozzie to Cherry’s Rescue, where she gratefully kept him overnight. The next morning, our kind trainer Anthony picked up Ozzie and drove him to Laurel Ridge for the first meet and greet with Andrew and Andrew’s therapist, Kay. It was love at first sight.

Things moved fast. The next day, Andrew’s plane flight was scheduled earlier than we had thought. Cherry’s husband, Gregg, met me at the airport at 5:45 am with all of Ozzie’s things, and I met Andrew there where we went through Delta security (I obtained a gate pass). Andrew was completely prepared, and we made it to the gate just in time to go over the basics of flying and how long-distance training should proceed. Andrew had already contacted a Service Dog trainer near Camp Lejeune to set up training, and I made contact with the trainer to ensure continuity of the process. I watched as the plane flew away, praying all would go well!

WELL, here is the result. Not only did Andrew do everything by the manual, but he kept in constant communication with me regarding Mozzie’s progress and paperwork needs for registration in North Carolina.

Andrew’s videos of he and Mozzie literally blew me away regarding the precision of movements, the attention to detail, and the complete transformation of a regular family dog to a model example of a Service Dog in Training with an equally amazing handler. I evaluated Andrew and Mozzie on the Assistance Dog International Public Access Test checklist and recommended minor areas still needing to be addressed for me to sign off on the test.

All I can say is that Andrew’s work with Mozzie, and his evident absolute bond with Mozzie and love for him have far surpassed my expectations.

To all who were involved in this process to help one Wounded Warrior in need, I cannot express my gratitude enough.

Andrew – you are a shining example of what dedication, perseverance, and love can do despite everything you have been through. Your courage and drive are an inspiration to us all.

(Videos shared with Andrew and Mozzie’s permission)