Category Archives: Multiple Sclerosis

Alex and Meadow

From our trainer Beverli, who had her fifth training session with Alex and his SDIT, Rottweiler “Meadow”. Alex suffers from anxiety and Multiple Sclerosis.

Beverli writes:

“At this session, we worked at home doing intensive work on “give”, “pull”, (Alex needs assistance with his wheelchair at times) and some outdoor heeling with many neighborhood distractions. Meadow’s focus and ability to stay calm in stressful environmental situations has greatly improved! We encountered a hostile Rottweiler while on our walk who charged us barking, and Meadow stayed put and did not react at all. Homework given for the next session was to continue working on “give” and “pull”.”


From our wonderful trainer, Pat, who performed the Public Access Test with client Brook and her now SERVICE DOG, TATER!!! CONGRATULATIONS BROOK AND TATER! Pat writes:

“Brook and her SDIT, 7 year-old hound/Boxer, “Tater”, are wonderful students!!! This week, I conducted their Public Access Test and they passed with ease! Brook was recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis after over 2 years of evaluations, tests and frustration with the pain and lack of answers. We both knew that Tater’s age would limit his length of service and ability to be a mobility dog. However, Brook hoped he would offer her some assistance – long enough to buy time to find and train another dog. She has rapidly been losing her balance and dexterity, she gets dizziness and weakness, and often drops things.

Our objectives for Tater were for Brook to be able to grab his handle just for some stability, and to teach him to pick up things that she drops, because bending over to do it herself was a risky endeavor. He had never had any formal obedience training, and also had a lifelong playmate that was recently lost, leaving him with a hole in his soul that resulted in sadness and loss of interest in life. He also had never had any interest in retrieving or playing catch or any such thing, so Brook had serious doubts whether we could teach him to pick up items for her.

Brook’s ability to absorb my coaching, her commitment to and quality of practice, and Tater’s willingness to try/do new things, were delightful and rewarding. His obedience training came along smashingly, quickly progressing to almost perfect control on the leash. However, both of us had reservations with his response to click/reward training for the retrieve. He was so keenly motivated by the treats that nothing else, including a toy, existed during the first two weeks of training.

Then, during the third week, the lightbulb suddenly came on! He started picking up a toy and placing it in Brook’s lap on the floor. Then, this progressed to when Brook was seated on a chair! And then, Tater started transferring the knowledge to other toys. WaaHooo!!! He got it! So on the 4th week of retrieve training, we started back on the floor with her keys. That very evening, he began picking up keys dropped on the floor and placing them in her hand while she was standing!

By then we were ready for the PAT, and in Walmart, while performing his new ‘tricks’ (like picking up keys, and “sit-down-stand” in succession on command), I suggested that another important skill would be for him to pick up the leash should she drop it. She agreed, and promptly dropped his leash and told him to ‘get it’. Not only did he get it, but he picked it up by the handle no less, and placed it in her hand! AMAZING! Then, Brook’s husband tossed his wallet on the floor, and on the third try (the first two of which he picked it up), Tater picked it up and gently gave it to her.

Now Tater is a 7 year old pup! He is excited about life, can’t wait to train and do new things, and once and for all puts to rest the ancient adage that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”!!!! Congratulations Brook and Tater! Tater, you have a wonderful career ahead of you!”


Wounded Warrior Rick and SDiT Shogun

From our trainer, Jackie, who is working with Wounded Warrior, Rick, and his SDIT, “Shogun”.

“Rick and Shogun the Mastiff had their first training session today. Veteran Rick has PTSD, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s Disease. He is training Shogun to be his PTSD and Mobility Service Dog. Shogun already has a substantial amount of basic training. Today, Shogun began learning “switch” where when walking, he transfers from one side of Rick to the other side during a heel. Normally. a Service Dog would be heeling on one side, generally the left to allow the right hand free for shaking hands, etc. However, with Rick, he has weakness on both sides and it is uncertain which side will be more prone to giving out on any particular day, so Shogun must know how to heel on both sides of Rick’s body. Shogun also practiced loading and unloading via ramp into the truck. He then participated in his second public outing at Cracker Barrel, where he had to remain in a down position despite being nose-to-nose with my Service Dog, Diesel, and despite the busy Sunday crowd, children approaching, and food. Shogun did very well!

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

Rowena and SDiT Blessed

From our trainer, Brenda, who is finally getting to work with some clients who have wheelchair-accessible homes, as Brenda herself is wheelchair-bound. Brenda has brilliantly been working with her SD, Murray, for almost two years now, so she knows the specific challenges for those in similar situations!

Brenda had her first two sessions with Rowena, who has MS and is in a wheelchair, and her SDIT, Blessed. Rowena and I had worked previously with her former SD, Lei Lani, who passed away due to old age. Blessed was matched with Rowena shortly after, and after a few sessions, I thought Rowena’s needs with Blessed would be more easily addressed by a trainer who experienced similar challenges. They did brilliantly together!!

Brenda writes:
“At our session, we did a brush-up on the basic commands. Rowena wanted to work on bracing so Blessed can help her off the floor and position herself in the chair. I worked with her showing the the two of them the correct place to stand and how to keep Blessed’s bottom off the floor when Rowena braces.

Rowena needs Blessed to lay down on command better and stay put. She had to physically manipulate Blessed to get her to do it at first, then Blessed would pop right back up. We worked first on just solidifying down, then down/stay. Once she was staying better, we were ignoring her and talking and increasing her stay time. At the end, she was laying down with minimal coaxing and staying totally relaxed!”

Amy and SDiT Emma

From our trainer, Kendra, who is in Houston. She is working with Amy and her SDIT, Emma. Not so happy news.

“Amy just received the sad news that she has Multiple Sclerosis. She has been falling and getting hurt a lot. So, the family has decided that Amy needs a Service Dog the most right now, because if she falls while her husband is at work, she needs Emma to bring her the phone to call 911. Amy would also like Emma to help open and close doors, and be trained to work alongside a wheelchair for preparation when the MS brings her to that point.

At our session, Emma was not feeling well. We went to Petsmart just to have Amy and Emma get the feel of being in public together. Amy took Emma to the vet right after our session, and they discovered that she needed her anal glands expressed. So she is feeling much better now.”

I suggested to Kendra that Amy get a medical alert button to wear around her neck in case she falls. They have them at any Medical Device pharmacies. In addition, I explained to Kendra the “science” behind anal gland expression, impaction, and possible infection. While it does not seem like a pleasant topic to talk about, it is very important for all dog owners to be aware of this.

If you’ve seen your dog scooting across the room on his bottom, it could be a sign of anal sac disease. Dogs have two small pouches on either side of their anus. They make a smelly, oily, brown fluid that dogs use to identify each other and mark their territory. It’s why they often sniff each others’ behinds. Anal gland oils also help the defecation of hard stool. Anal sac disease begins as an uncomfortable impaction and can progress to an infection or abscess.

Symptoms that your dog needs to have his anal glands expressed are scooting, licking or biting its rear end, a bad smell coming from its rear, or constipation when trying to pass stool.

Normally, when a dog poops, the fluid in his anal sacs is squeezed out, too. It’s when they aren’t completely emptied that problems develop. The fluid inside can become so dry and thick that it plugs up the openings. This is called impaction. Thankfully, impacted sacs are easy to treat. The glands can be gently emptied, or expressed, with your fingers. You may have to do this regularly, and to save a trip, your vet can show you how. Our three dogs – Savage, Bonnie, and Molly, rarely need their glands expressed. But our beagle, Cherry, needs hers done about twice a month. Different breeds are prone to needing manual expression done more often. It is easy to do at home if shown by your veterinarian how to do it.

If your dog repeatedly has impactions, you vet may suggest adding more fiber to his diet. This increases the size of his poop, which puts more pressure on the sacs to empty naturally. If your dog doesn’t have a problem, there is no need for you to empty his sacs.

Left untreated, the impaction will turn into an infection. Look for yellow or bloody pus oozing from his sacs. This painful condition can cause your dog to act fearful or angry. Your vet will wash out the sacs and give your dog antibiotics. An untreated infection will develop into an abscess (a swollen, tender mass of puss) and could break open. Your vet will open and drain the abscess and usually prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Daily warm compresses can help, too.

If your dog keeps having problems, your vet may want to remove his anal sacs with surgery. It’s a simple procedure, but can result in complications like fecal incontinence (when his poop leaks uncontrollably).

Warrent and Panther

From trainer Beverly, who began working with Warrant, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and PTSD. He is in a wheel chair and unable to walk more than 4 steps without assistance. His SDIT is “Panther”!

“At our initial meeting, Panther was a bit shy initially, but once he warmed up, we played and he allowed me to hold him and rub him all over. Although he is a small dog – a “YorkiPoo”, he’s smart and a tad stubborn! Warrant has MS, and wants Panther to be a medical alert dog to tell others if he falls or needs help and for his own peace of mind. There is an obvious strong bond between them. You can just see the love Warrant has for his little buddy in the pictures.

At our first training session, we worked on “Sit” and “Down”, then started on “Short Stay” for them to work on through the week. Panther caught on quickly, but he also gets bored quickly. We discussed the need for short training sessions (15-20 mins) a couple times per day. In addition, Warrant should be consistent with the rules for Panther; for him to work with Panther before meals so that Panther is treat-motivated. Warrant should also ensure they have appropriate “pack structure” within the house and that Panther is not allowed to “be the boss.” They both (Warrant and Panther) seemed to enjoy the session and look forward to learning more. I look forward to seeing what this little spunky dog is capable of. He’s very smart, and so is Warrant!”