Category Archives: Military

Training With A Wonderful Wounded Warrior – Jesse

It’s been so long since I’ve posted about training with a wonderful Wounded Warrior – Jesse, who suffers from extreme PTSD. When I first met Jesse, he was so anxious just talking that he had a towel with him at all times to wipe away the sweat from his panic – just meeting a stranger. But he was so nice, kind, gentle-hearted, and eager beyond belief to start his journey with a Service Dog. Jesse is young, and served with the military for 4 years – but, as is often the story, he was immediately thrown into battle and now, he was a different man. He could barely be around any new people without actually just having to leave – always apologizing profusely – but he would have such severe panic attacks that he had no choice. Jesse met Sasha, who had been fostered by Barbara – and his whole world has changed.

Jesse met Sasha, lovingly donated by Barbara who felt Sasha had a higher calling – and she was right. Since Jesse adopted Sasha, his world has changed. I noticed each time I met with him, he seemed happier, so much more hopeful – and was completely committed to taking the best care of Sasha. He literally doted on her like she was a queen – buying her the best of toys, food, and all things doggie. They had an instant bond, and from day one, they have been inseparable – sleeping together, playing, and week by week, starting to go out into public places that otherwise Jesse would have never dreamed of going to. I have watched their progression, and Jesse followed the training manual to a tee, training Sasha to perform as many commands as possible. Sasha is brilliant, and picked up commands easily. But Jesse had finally found his best friend, and life has changed so much for him.

Now, Jesse has a girlfriend. Now, Jesse has had the courage to get a job. Now, Jesse can go into places in public with Sasha and last longer and longer without the anxiety being so bad that he only lasts a few minutes. He looks forward to his future, has regained hope, and has found joy in a world that formerly looked hopeless to him.

Jesse, Sasha, and I have trained in several public places, and you can just see how much they love each other. Sasha can “sit”, “down”, “watch me”, “heel”, “load and unload”, “cover”, and does one thing that really helps Jesse – Jesse has extreme anxiety reactions to loud, unexpected noises – but Sasha is not bothered by them at all – and so Jesse sees Sasha’s reaction and knows “it’s ok”. I am so proud of Jesse, and they will soon be passing the PAT.

One thing I noticed instantly is how Sasha’s coat is changing. It is so shiny, soft, and always smells dreamy! That’s because Jesse love giving her a bath every week! He gets up every morning and makes Sasha eggs to go with her regular food!

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!!


Congressional Inquiry to the VA for SD costs

OK! THIS IS SERIOUS!!! What I need from as many Texas wounded warriors as possible is an email or documentation regarding any physicians, counselors, psychiatrist, etc., who have “recommended” that each of you would benefit from a Service Dog. Congressman Pete Gallego’s office is taking on this matter of the VA saying veterans can benefit from Service Dogs, but the VA refuses to pay for it. PLEASE take the time to send me the information so we can get this changed – even if you already have been through the training process, you deserve reimbursement. My direct email is [email protected]. If you are in the middle of the training process or about to begin, you deserve reimbursement. But I NEED YOUR HELP to make this work. Here is the latest email and phone call I received from Gallego’s office. Of course, I will be filling out the privacy release form for myself to go ahead with these inquiries today. This currently applies to Wounded Warriors living in Texas.


I have attached a privacy release form for you to fill out yourself. I am going to send an inquiry to the VA as to why they do not pay for the dogs that they are prescribing to Veterans. On the second page of the form make sure you write in detail who it is that writes the prescriptions as well as who makes the decision that the Vet needs a service dog. If we can get the VA to pay for the dogs, it would really help these guys out and it would probably streamline the process and standardize it as well. If you have any questions at all please do not hesitate to call me. On a personal note, as a Veteran I wanted to thank you for making this your life’s work!

Kind regards,

Joseph Van Kuiken
Office of Congressman Pete P. Gallego (TX 23)”

Welcome Piper Tensely Willis!!

PiperiCONGRATULATIONS to Wounded Warrior Christopher and his wife Megan, who just had a baby girl – Piper Tensley Willis!!! Christopher and his wonderful SD Maggie were apart for the first two days while in the hospital – humble Christopher didn‘t want the attention to be on, in his words, “the guy with the dog” instead of his wife! How sweet! But it was difficult for him being in a small room with tons of activity and overwhelming amounts of people, trying to get some sleep with an unlocked door – totally understandable with someone with PTSD. He didn’t sleep for 36-37 hours after he took an Ambien after the nurses tried to reassure him everything will be okay. He even woke up several times to change his daughter.

He then decided to go home and get Maggie. When he was walking back into the hospital, he was stopped by Security. The officer wanted to know if I had Maggie’s “papers” with him. He told him no and that ADA states that he didn’t need to have paperwork. He informed me Security at the New Braunfels hospital has had to call the police a few times to confront people with fake service dogs. Maggie had her vest on and she was being her normal laid back self. We (the officer and I) went around a few times and I assured him my SD wasn’t a fake.

MaggieChristopher then talked to the nurses on the floor and they stated that they had already talked to their head nurse and she was aware of Maggie and was okay with her! Yay! The nurses on the floor said that they would talk to the officer if he comes to the floor. I reassured him that if he had any other problems, he could call me asap on my personal cell phone.

Christopher wrote that he was not upset nor mad at security here. He said that security had seen a pattern of events and was just acting accordingly (in security’s eyes). Christopher knows about fake service dogs in the news and also believes they are on the rise. But he didn’t feel that an officer confronting him in the dark in front of the hospital requesting papers was the right approach. I agreed. And, of course, SDs are allowed in any hospital except in certain areas where patients are immunosuppressed or there is radiation.

I will contact the hospital to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. BUT, in the meantime, the great news is that everyone is back home, healthy, and happy!!! I asked how is Maggie responding to the baby, and reminded Christopher to let the bonding between Maggie and Piper start as soon as possible. Christopher said that Maggie was doing great! Maggie is great. He was holding Piper trying to calm her, and Maggie laid her head on Christopher’s lap, saying that Maggie’s mothering nature has shined through again!


Assessment for Osito and Handler Beto

Beto with OsitoA posting from our trainer Michelle, in New Mexico!

I would like to introduce you to Beto, with his SDiT, Osito.  Osito is a 5 yr-old Papillion/Pomeranian/Chihuahua cross.  Beto is a veteran of the Vietnam War, who is an extremely kind and gentle person.  He has a partner with Osito, who adores him beyond belief and thinks the world of Beto.  Osito decided to take a little nap and love on his dad.

Osito laying next to meWhen I first entered, Osito was a little nervous of the “new person in the house”, but soon warmed up to me.  He is so sweet and gentle, yet he the Alpha of the pack!  He is 1 of 6 dogs in the home, and seems to rule the roost!  Once he finally warmed up to me, Osito making sure the yard is ok for ushe allowed me to handle him, and assess his temperament.  He then laid on the floor next to me, very comfortable.  Upon visiting with Beto, and finding out how Osito will be assisting him, I had a tour of a very dog-friendly home with beautiful yard for them to roam, including a dog run from the back yard to the front fence.

Osito smiling in the Back yardBeto will have Osito trained for Diabetic alert purposes and medication reminders.  Upon assessing this team, I feel that the bond is very strong and breaking Osito of a few bad habits will be rather easy.  Getting him used to certain commands might be the trick. 🙂

Beto has a wonderful family and great support system.  Beto is very eager to get started, including training multiple times per week or as much as we feel Osito needs.

Welcome to new client, Wounded Warrior Brian

Welcome to new client, Wounded Warrior Brian, who is from Missouri. He and his wife are staying at the Fisher House at the Center for the Intrepid at San Antonio Military Medical Center while Brian receives treatment for PTSD. With the help of trainer Beverly Benson, they found the perfect SDIT – “Will”!! It was wagging tails at first site!


Welcome to new client, Wounded Warrior Mark

A warm welcome to new client, Wounded Warrior Mark, who is staying at Liberty Barracks at Ft. Sam Houston as he receives treatment for PTSD and TBI. Unfortunately, because of the rules at Ft. Sam, Mark’s SDIT, boxer “Jace” cannot stay with him in the barracks. So Cherry Jenkins will be boarding and training Jace while Mark receives treatment – he will certainly have “visiting rights” on weekends! And, he will be able to eventually train on weekend with Cherry in public once Jace has all the Public Access Commands down. SO sad that SDIT’s can’t stay in barracks if it’s transitional housing for those receiving medical treatment before they are released. In 2011, General Wong, the Commander of Brooke Army Medical Center issued a statement that they were allowed after a lot of hard work done by a lot of people, including myself. Well, General Wong left, and now it’s back to square one. But we won’t stop the fight!


Chuck and SDIT Guess

Look who’s found his perfect SDIT! Chuck, a veteran from McAllen, TX, fell in love with Betty on our website – and after much hard work from Chuck, rescuer and trainer Cherry, and SDE, a match was made!

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Cherry writes:

“Here are some pics of Betty’s (renamed Guess) first meeting with Chuck. These two are made for each other! Guess walked really well with Chuck and obeyed all the commands, SIT DOWN STAY and WAIT. She even performed a perfect cover for Chuck too.

We went and had some lunch and Guess went right under the table.
Of course I asked them if I could have a final picture with my girl Betty Boop as I called her.  I am really going to miss that sweet sweet girl, she was one of my star pupils and so sweet and loving.

Chuck and Guess had a bond from the very beginning!  He has been working with the VA in McAllen and Harlington to try and get funding for Service Dog training for veterans like him with PTSD.  We will all fight together!

Betty (AKA Guess) was in an animal shelter and due to die because her old family no longer wanted her, she was rescued and trained by In Dog We Trust rescue San Antonio.”

The Veteran Owned Business Project

Service Dog Express, LLC is proud to now be an approved member of this wonderful organization that features other business that are owned by veterans! The Veteran Owned Business Project is a comprehensive, user friendly portal/directory of small, medium and large businesses owned by veterans, veteran spouses, active duty military, reservists and service disabled veterans released on Veteran’s Day 2008. Now Americans in the United States and abroad have an easy way to proudly search for products and services that are unique in the fact that they are all made by, sold by or serviced by United States military veterans!

Veteran & Veteran Spouse Owned Business Directory, Get your free listing, now!

AMAZING story of the day !

One of our dear Wounded Warrior clients and friend (Jimmy with SD Otto) was pulling out of his parking spot at his apartment. A woman came running by and Jimmy had to slam on his breaks so hard that his Service Dog, Otto, who was secured in a seatbelt still ended up shattering the windshield . The lady just left; didn’t even realize that the unseen injuries would definitely affect Jimmy and could have killed his SD; that saves him from a lot of things everyday – his best friend . Anyway, even though Otto was the one that got hurt, this is the first thing he did when he got out of the car ! This dog is amazing and the bond that they have is beyond words. Otto is OK for now – no signs of injury – but we will all be helping Jimmy monitor Otto.