Category Archives: Military

Wounded Warrior Rudy and SDiT Jenny

From our super trainer, Terry, who is in El Paso, and is working with Rudy, who is a Wounded Warrior suffering from PTSD, TBI, Depression, hyper-vigilance, sleep apnea, and nightmares, and his SDIT, “Jenny”.

Terry writes:

“We had a great outing and exposure to the mall, and all of its many distractions! Rudy and Jenny did exceptionally well on their first outing in the mall. We practiced and mastered the proper procedures of entering and exiting the mall, as it has double doors, and requires some skill level to get in and out successfully. We visited a couple of stores; some crowed with people, some crowed with merchandise, some empty with people, merchandise, and some with confined space for maneuvering. Rudy and Jenny performed exceptionally well in all situations presented!! We also made use of the elevator, and again, both parties performed so well! What a wonderful outing!”



Donny is an amazingly dedicated, confident dog handler who suffers from PTSD and TBI. He has done so much work with Max on his own, based upon his years of training his own personal dogs. From the first time I met them, I was already blown away by how much work he had done with Max. Donny followed all the training steps in the manual, and added his own training, which just enhanced Max’s already incredible abilities.

We took the Public Access Test at my favorite place to do them – the Bass Pro Shop. By now, I know just about every worker in the store – and they always greet each dog and handler with such compassion and kindness. They know to ask before petting, and all of them willingly participate in parts of the Public Access Test that require interactions with strangers.

We started from “unload”, then went to “controlled entry” (Max wasn’t even fazed by the rolling bars that let you in). We went all over the store, as I followed behind and let Donny know each command I had to see them do. Max scored an “Always” on every single part of the test. He adores children, and was gentle with each one that wanted to greet him as he stayed in a “sit” position. He was the same with male and female adults. I always add in some “extras” to the test, like showing Donny proper elevator entrance and exit with a Service Dog (Max loved the glass windows where he could see all the fish). We did fast heeling and slow heeling around corners and clothes racks, and when we did the “drop leash” command, Max stayed in a perfect heel far beyond what he was required to do! Donny and Max spend all their time together, so there is no doubt about how strong their bond is. Max loved the fish pond, and it was hilarious to see how he constantly cocked his head from side to side while watching the catfish swimming around! He didn’t attempt to jump in the pond, but I bet he would have loved to!

There were SO many people, including workers, who came up to us to express how beautiful Max was – and because he was so well-behaved, they asked for pointers for their own dogs! If the conversation went on a little bit too long, Max just laid down and rested. Max was SO intrigued by all the stuffed wild game they have there – Donny lives in an area where there are always deer in the front yard and even a small fox that visits – so Max would go right up to the huge stuffed deer and elk, sniff them, then look at Donny as if he was saying, “I don’t get it, dad – this LOOKS like a real animal, but it sure doesn’t smell like one!” Max’s face is so full of expression like that. Max didn’t really like the stuffed monkeys, because they are a bit scary looking, so when we went up to them, he did a back “cover” behind Donny as if he was saying “OK, that really freaks me out dad!”

We practiced slow walking on many of the different stair surfaces they have – “step, wait, step, wait”, and Max was perfect on each surface. He could sit/stay and down/stay with ease for as long as Donny wanted him to. Max was not fazed by shopping cars, people in motorized wheelchairs, crying babies (Max actually seems to really want to gravitate toward them as if to comfort them. There was even someone in the store with a very hyper puppy – and both the handler and Donny were hesitant to get them close – but I knew Max’s personality and told them to just relax and let the two dogs try and do a proper meet and greet – and they did! Max was gentle, and the little puppy quickly calmed down and they did the perfect “sniffing” pattern and became fast friends.

I am so, so very proud of this team. Donny said that Max always knows when Donny is having a difficult day, and comes to him instantly to give him comfort. Max’s recall is also profoundly good.

Well done, Donny and Max!!!!

P.S. – Check out Donny’s new Camaro!! A young couple visiting from Italy even came up to Donny and said, “How much for that Camaro? We’ll pay cash right now!” We all laughed and Max stuck his head out and said “No way, people – this is MY fancy car!”

Wounded Warrior Ryan, and his SDIT, “Shade”

From our trainer, Beverly, who is working with Wounded Warrior Ryan, and his SDIT, “Shade”. Ryan suffers from epilepsy and anxiety.

Beverly writes:

” This was the first appointment with Ryan and his new pup “Shade.” Shade is a very intelligent black lab who is bonding well with Ryan and fitting nicely into his family. His previous pup wouldn’t settle down and was causing more stress, so she was re-homed prior to him obtaining his new pup.

We worked on “Sit, Down, Watch Me and Leave it”. Shade picked up on all of them very quickly and did well during the session. Ryan will work in several short sessions throughout the day, since Shade is young (6 months) and he is a student (online) and home with her most of the day.

Since Shade is showing high intelligence and bonding well with Ryan, I believe she will quickly pick up on any chemical changes and will be easy to train to alert to seizures or anything else we ask of her. They make a great team!

UPDATE: They’ve worked together for 2 weeks on the above skills and Ryan says Shade is doing very well. We will meet on Wednesday for the next session to work on “heel, wait and stay”. I’m excited to see the progress and watch Shade and Ryan become a fantastic SD team!

Wounded Warrior, James and Service Dog, Sadie

Laurie had an amazing training session with Wounded Warrior, James, who was paired with Service Dog, Sadie. James said Sadie has fit into their family perfectly. He takes her to work at San Antonio Military Medical Center every day, and Sadie is an absolute wonder for all the patients he cares for. James also gets to take long breaks with Sadie to take her for walks on the base grounds when his anxiety gets too high. So far, James has only been working with Sadie, who knows all commands, at home and at work. Sadie sleeps with James and consistently wakes him from his night terrors. Sadie also alerts James and his wife if their child is crying or not sleeping well!

Laurie writes:

We had our first public training session at Petsmart. James’ PTSD and TBI are so severe that he has not been able to go to public places other than work without his wife and Sadie with him. So this was an extreme challenge for him. When I met James outside of Petsmart, he was sitting with Sadie in a cover, already in a full-blown panic attack – sweating, feeling lightheaded, etc. I stayed with them outside for quite some time, and explained to him that this panic attack is absolutely normal and expected for someone with his conditions. I helped him do some deep-breathing exercises, had him focus on Sadie and pet her until he had calmed down a bit. He said he felt like leaving, but he didn’t want to give up. I was so proud of him! I promised him that we would go very slowly in Petsmart, and that any time he started to panic, we would step to a quiet area so that he could breath and focus on Sadie, letting her know he needed her.

We entered Petsmart slowly, with Sadie waiting at the door until James told her to “go through”. Then we walked around the edges of Petsmart slowly, letting James get comfortable with the amount of people and dogs there. Luckily, it wasn’t very crowded, and James said that that helped. He kept saying he was still anxious, but I reminded him that I was right beside him, and Sadie, who is always eying her surroundings, would always alert James if there were anything he should worry about. One huge trigger for James is children, due to his past experiences in battle. He loves them, and wants to conquer this fear he gets because he immediately goes into a flashback. The first thing we did was make an appointment for Sadie to get a furminator treatment for her coat. I had James come into the small grooming area, which was crowded, and let him stand in the corner with Sadie in a front cover while I made the appointment for him. I kept checking with him to see if he was OK with a thumb’s up, and he did great.

Next, we just started going up and down the aisles slowly, found a collar where Sadie stayed in a perfect heel, and practiced just walking and having James walk by people and other dogs calmly. When people would ask if they could pet the dog, James actually said absolutely, put Sadie in a “sit/stay”, and James and Sadie did perfectly! The more we walked and talked, the calmer you could see James becoming. We did several meet and greets with other dogs, and Sadie was a perfect lady even with the dogs that would bark or jump. James was so proud of her!! We picked out some items for Sadie, looked at the birds and fish, and actually, James was able to do a meet and greet with a child! He was beaming after accomplishing that.

James and I talked about how things were going at home, because I noticed that while Sadie performed perfectly, and responded so wonderfully when James would squat down and give her love, their seemed to be a bit of distance between them. So I asked James about what happens when he gets home from work and is frustrated or angry about something. He said he usually goes out onto the back porch alone and sits there, leaving Sadie inside, because he doesn’t want Sadie to get upset. I explained to him that it was Sadie’s JOB to be there during those difficult times. She needs to see him when he is feeling at his worst – Sadie can handle that – because that it what creates the bond. He agreed to make sure just he and Sadie spend that time together alone, so that Sadie can feel his moods and comfort him. Sometimes, James also said that he retreats to his room when he is feeling bad, so that he doesn’t take it out on his family. I asked him if he takes Sadie in there with him every time. He again said no, because he didn’t want to upset Sadie. We talked a long time about why it is desperately important that he include Sadie when he feels this way, because that is her job, and she needs to know that James needs her during those difficult moments and will provide comfort. This is so essential to the bonding.

James understood, and said he would do this, instead of letting Sadie just be in another room with his wife and child and their puppy, Colby (who loves to play with Sadie).

When we finally left Petsmart, I mentioned to James that he had survived an entire hour in Petsmart and DID IT!!!! I hugged him and told him how proud I was that he did it. He was proud, too!!!!! I told him some jokes when we left and although he said he would sit in his car a bit to decompress, I reminded him to focus on Sadie and give her love and treats!!!!

Service Dog Express's photo.


Denise and SDiT Sandy

From our trainer, Brenda, who is a paraplegic in a wheelchair and specializes in working with our other clients in wheelchairs, who has been working with Denise and her SDIT, Sandy!

Brenda writes:

“After several training sessions, I went through a mock Public Access Test to show me that Sandy was ready for her formal test. We did the following:

1) Sandy “loaded” onto the bus perfectly. I had also observed her loading into Denise’s provider’s truck Friday without hesitation.
2) Sandy “unloaded” off the bus perfectly.
3) Denise demonstrated “sit” and “stay” without a problem. Sandy did not pay attention to the food on the floor at McDonald’s and has never had an issue at home when Denise eats. We did not go to the grocery store, but I have seen in the past that Sandy has no issues with shopping carts in the store. Denise does not want anyone petting Sandy.
4) Denise demonstrated “down” with little problem. At 1st, Sandy was very excited and wasn’t focused, but Denise quickly got her full attention when she brought out the can of Pet Corrector! Sandy then laid down right away and stayed. Sandy laid right down in McDonald’s, too, and did not bother with food that was already on the floor. She did not break the down position when people walked by.
5) Denise and Sandy went through the door at her apartment and at McDonald’s with Sandy heeling just in front of her chair, out of the way of it and not too far ahead. Sandy also demonstrated that she knows her directions.
6) When we were going to and from the bus stop and restaurant, I observed that Sandy heeled perfectly next to Denise’s chair (or just in front of as needed), and there was slack in the leash so I know she wasn’t pulling. Traffic and noise do not bother Sandy. She stops when Denise stops.
7) Sandy executed “go through” perfectly and waits for Denise once she is through.
8) Sandy stays right next to Denise at all times.
9 & 10) For safety reasons, I did not have her demonstrate these; I feel more comfortable waiting to do these with someone who can walk just in case things go wrong. However, Denise told me of a situation last week where when they were getting dropped off by ViaTrans. Sandy saw a cat when the door opened, and Denise did not have good hold of the leash. Sandy took off after the cat and Denise said “NO Sandy! Come back here!” Sandy stopped right away and went back to Denise. Sandy did the “sit/stay/come” combo perfectly in the house.
11) I have done this in the past without Sandy even flinching, and she wasn’t distracted by noise or people on our outing today – so I didn’t drop anything. It also wasn’t feasible to do this rolling on the sidewalk. We only went to McDonald’s and not HEB too, as this would have been too much for Denise today and I didn’t want to be redundant on things I know that Sandy is perfect with and will pass on her official test.

I did do some wheelchair troubleshooting. There was an issue as far as the bus one time; Sandy did not have a place to sit in front of Denise’s chair, out of the aisle. I saw this in the past, and had been thinking of what we could do. I suggested that Denise make sure her chair was as far back as possible and to swing out the leg rest that was on the window side, put her foot on the floor to give Sandy more room to sit for the ride, and also to swing out the leg rest on the aisle side like a door when Sandy gets in and out to make it easier on her. Denise didn’t even know that her leg rests COULD swing out and I’m not sure that you would have known either or how to do it. Sandy was still hesitant to get into that spot, but I think it’s just from her past experience of having no room and being uncomfortable, so I advised Denise to be ready with treats to coax her there in the future until Sandy catches on that it is easier and she now has more room to sit comfortably. I made it clear to Denise that I am still here for her if she has problems and to call me so I can do more troubleshooting. I believe that once Sandy realizes that adjustments have been made and she has a big enough spot to sit every time, Sandy will go right into her spot without hesitation and it will be a faster process!

They are ready for their Public Access Test next session!

Tremendous adventure for Wounded Warrior Andrew

A tremendous adventure for our client, Wounded Warrior Andrew, and his Service Dog, Mozzie! Now that Andrew is officially separated from the military after suffering from severe PTSD, he decided to try a wonderful, new, healing and bonding experience with Mozzie – hiking the Appalachian Trail together! Here is a link to his journal – it’s just fascinating!

Andrew did call me yesterday because he said that Mozzie is getting a bit “overprotective” of Andrew in certain situations – especially when night falls and strangers walk by the tarp he is sleeping under – or when they meet certain people at the hostels along the way – but I explained that this is perfectly natural, because their bond is so close, and Mozzie is just watching out for Andrew with all the smells of the forest and smells on new people that he might be alerting to. Mozzie will just emit a small growl in certain situations, but stops immediately once Andrew checks things out.

Otherwise, when the two of them are hiking for miles, Mozzie is happy, joyful, curious, and they have had so much fun bonding surrounded by the peace of nature!

Wounded Warrior Derrick and Anni

From our trainer, Candace, in Ft. Worth, who is working with Wounded Warrior, Derrick, and his SDIT, Anni. Derrick suffers from PTSD from his service in the Marine Corps, has difficulty sleeping, nightmares, and anxiety in large crowds. Candace writes:

“Derrick and Anni’s training session was very straight forward and fruitful. We focused a lot of our time on proper heeling for Anni. We also focused on what was acceptable and not acceptable for Derrick’s specific diagnosis and what he felt was comfortable for him. Anni is a bit of a puller, but also a quick learner. We added some directional vocabulary to her list, including “left,” “right,” and “back.” We also talked a lot about Derrick’s anxiety and how Anni has been responding to him. I wanted to get a better idea of how she reacts when his stress level goes up, so I sent Derrick on a mission as homework of increasing his anxiety level in as safe a situation as possible with his family. He was to note Anni’s reaction and what he would like her to do so that we could work on this for next time. We spend the last bit of the session working on Anni staying under picnic tables so Derrick can go out to eat with his family. She did a great job!”

Wounded Warrior Duane and SDiT Apache

From our wonderful trainer, Jackie, who is working with Wounded Warrior, Duane. Duane suffers from PTSD, anxiety, and he can’t bend over well do to osteoporosis in his spine and a recent hip replacement. Duane had some initial sessions with one of our trainers, then due to logistical issues, was transferred to Jackie to continue training with Duane’s SDIT, “Apache”! Jackie has had two sessions with Duane so far. She writes:

“Veteran Duane and Apache  met with me as their new trainer today. Apache is training to be Duane’s Mobility and PTSD Service Dog. This was Apache’s first training session out in public. Duane worked with Apache on” heeling” through aisles at Home Depot while handling distractions very well. Apache also learned to “sit-stay” at the end of every aisle on command! Duane and Apache will continue to work on this so that Apache will automatically sit at Duane’s side at every aisle, street corner, and upon stopping. We also took Apache out to the home and garden section, where Apache had to learn to follow Duane’s commands including “leave it” with an environment that is more full of smells and more similar to a natural “freedom environment” (ex: backyard, park).

At our next session, Duane and Apache completed their training session at HEB (the local grocery store). Duane and Apache had to integrate the skills of “heeling” and “sit-stay” at the end of aisles in a new and much busier environment. Duane got to practice navigating Apache through very crowded aisles, keeping Apache focused on Duane despite all of the appetizing smells and curious people! Apache responded very well to Duane’s directions, and completely ignored all the foods (even the fresh meat!). Duane and Apache practiced waiting at the Pharmacy so that Apache could get used to the small space, the busy environment, and just being out and waiting patiently in public. Apache will need to continue to work on this, as he was very curious by all of the people and took a little while to relax and get comfortable. All in all, they are doing wonderfully!


CONGRATULATIONS TO WOUNDED WARRIOR DON AND HIS NOW SERVICE DOG, HERMAN!!!! THEY PASSED THEIR PUBLIC ACCESS TEST!!!! Don is a Wounded Warrior who suffers from PTSD and Depression, but also does amazing volunteer work at the hospital, church, or Police Department. Now, he and Herman can not only help each other, but will go on to offer comfort to others!

Trainer Andrew writes:

During this first section of the Public Access Test, we went to New Braunfels Feed and Seed, where we went through the test. Both Don and Herman did a wonderful job! We discovered that Don needs to communicate a little more with Herman, and Herman needs to be work a little more on focusing on Don around groups of people; but this is very minor, as Herman just wants to say hello!

Next, we worked special tasks that Don needs for Herman to provide for him. Herman has a habit of putting his paw on Don’s leg when he wants attention, so we turned that habit into something useful by teaching Herman to do that with the command “touch” when Don was feeling anxious or depressed. After that, we brought in the specific ringtone that Don has on his phone which, although it is very loud, Don still has trouble hearing. We taught Herman to alert Don when the phone starts to ring. Next, we worked on teaching Herman to hold things in his mouth, which is the beginning of our work to teach him to fetch items and hold a specific object at the door to help remind Don if he has forgotten anything.

Update from Ryan and Carl

An update from Wounded Warrior, Ryan, who was matched with SDIT, Carl! They went on a 3 day trip to a convention, and are staying at a nice hotel. Lots of time for bonding! We will do our first session in public at Bass Pro Shop when Ryan gets back. It’s a great place to expose Service Dogs to all kinds of distractions, especially the glass elevator. Ryan wrote:

“Carl loves the hotel! He just doesn’t like the elevator very much – but he is doing great so far! I hugged Carl on the elevator and reassured him that it was OK”.

I can’t wait to hear how the convention went – huge crowds for a Wounded Warrior with PTSD and TBI and a new SDIT – overwhelming, but hopefully having Carl there should help Ryan refocus and be more calm.