Category Archives: Panic Attack

The Jayna Experience

This posting is absolutely going to melt your heart. Get your tissues out! It is a very long posting, but that is because the client has a very rare and interesting disorder that I believe needs more attention from the community at large and how a Service Dog can help. It’s also about two beautiful families that came together and through their unbelievable compassion, are making dreams come true.

Dear, beautiful, sweet, and intelligent 12 year-old Jayna was born with a very rare condition. She has Complete Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum and Intellectual Disability. She is currently undergoing Chromosomal Genetic Testing under the care of Dr. Ariel Braumbar of Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth. Jayna also has issues of wandering, Anxiety Disorder (severe panic attacks) for which she is under medication for this. Her family drove all the way down from Dallas to meet Brian.

Agenesis of corpus callosum (ACC) is a rare disorder that is present at birth (congenital). It is characterized by a partial or complete absence (agenesis) of an area of the brain that connects the two cerebral hemispheres. This part of the brain is normally composed of transverse fibers. The cause of agenesis of corpus callosum is usually not known, but it can be inherited as either an autosomal recessive trait or an X-linked dominant trait. It can also be caused by an infection or injury during the twelfth to the twenty-second week of pregnancy (intrauterine) leading to developmental disturbance of the fetal brain. In essence, the brain is completely divided into “two” brains.

In some cases mental retardation may result, but intelligence may be only mildly impaired and subtle psychosocial symptoms may be present. ACC is frequently diagnosed during the first two years of life. An epileptic seizure can be the first symptom indicating that a child should be tested for a brain dysfunction. The disorder can also be without apparent symptoms in the mildest cases for many years, but with Jayna, she started having febrile grand mal seizures at the age of 1. Then, they became absence seizures. The family was quick to find out what was happening, and took her to Cook Children’s Hospital in Ft. Worth. That is when they found out she had complete agenesis of the corpus callosum. Until the age of 9, she continued to have less frequent absence seizures and then they stopped.
Genetic diseases are determined by the combination of genes for a particular trait that are on the chromosomes received from the father and the mother. Recessive genetic disorders occur when an individual inherits the same abnormal gene for the same trait from each parent. If an individual receives one normal gene and one gene for the disease, the person will be a carrier for the disease, but usually will not show symptoms. The risk for two carrier parents to both pass the defective gene and, therefore, have an affected child is 25% with each pregnancy. The risk to have a child who is a carrier like the parents is 50% with each pregnancy. The chance for a child to receive normal genes from both parents and be genetically normal for that particular trait is 25%. The risk is the same for males and females. Jayna’s amazing, absolutely supportive and beautiful parents show no symptoms. Jayna also has a younger sister that is absolutely normal. It has been thought to be a very rare condition but the increased use of neuro-imaging techniques, such as MRI, is resulting in an increased rate of diagnosis. This condition may also be identified during pregnancy through an ultrasound. Currently, the highest estimate of incidence is 7 in 1000 individuals.

Now, Jayna experiences extreme panic attacks that seem to come out of nowhere – there are no identifiable triggers. When I first met her, and during the many hours we spent as her beloved family drove down from Dallas to adopt “Brian” from our Available Assessed List, she spoke, acted, and interacted completely normally. Jayna is gentle, loving, immediately bonded with “Brian”, and it was beautiful to see how much her younger sister, 10 year-old Jillian, was so protective of Jayna.

Jayna’s incredible parents are still undergoing tests with Jayna, as mentioned above, which include MRIs, many visits to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, and investigating all kinds of ways to try and understand this rare condition and how genetics are involved. Jayna shows some autistic traits, but she is not diagnosed with autism. Many scientists doing research on this rare disorder think that many children who are “diagnosed” with autism may actually have this rare disorder, which is a fascinating area of research that needs much more funding given the drastic rise of autism diagnoses in the past few years.

Jayna is socially extremely easy to converse with and engages easily, from what I observed. She does have all the special “equipment” that many autistic children have, such as many weighted blankets when she starts to panic, but our hope is that SDIT “Brian” will become her blanket!! After just one day together, the parents informed me that Brian follows Jayna around everywhere. Brian knows that something is different. That’s why I felt they would be the perfect match – Brian is just that smart and instinctive. I showed the family and Jayna how to make eye contact with Brian, which he does very well, how to command him to “sit”, “down”, and if he gets too excited, how to do the step-down technique to help him settle. He would roll over on his back and let Jayna and her sister just pet and rub and lie all over him!! I gave them a special collar to help Brian “heel” for Jayna – I explained it would take a little bit of time for Brian to get used to it, but after walking around with Brian on the collar, he started to heel perfectly. Jayna has a soft voice, so she was encouraged to give commands with a more assertive voice. This definitely made a difference!

The family also brought along their other dog, a brilliant Aussie/Chihuahua mix! Seriously – this tiny dog is so incredibly smart! Brian and their dog took a little bit of time to get used to each other – there was absolutely no aggression (Brian wouldn’t hurt a flea) – but once the sniffing was done, all was fine. We talked about redirecting Brian to Jayna as much as possible, and her sister understood the reason for that. The only time I could notice the disorder that Jayna has was when I asked her a question: I said, “Jayna – when you have panic attacks, what are some of the first symptoms that you feel”. It was very interesting – because she was looking at me, and I could tell she was processing the question, but her father pointed out that this is the way a “split” brain works – it takes a few minutes for the two sides to process the information and come up with an answer. Indeed, in about 2 minutes, Jayna immediately started answering my question with complete clarity. She said that her heart beats faster, she gets very hot, she feels restless and nervous, etc. I let her know that Brian’s job will be to be so bonded with her that when these symptoms start, he will “alert” to them, and she is to completely focus on Brian to help soothe her before the attack becomes too large. I am confident Brian will be able to do this. She also said that she has nightmares, so Brian will sleep on the bed with her and hopefully gently wake or comfort her during or after a nightmare.

There is another beautiful side to this story. Words cannot even explain what beauty develops when there is so much love and compassion certain people.

Brian was donated by our client, Paul, and his wife Shanika. Paul and I have been working together and become wonderful friends over the past two years. Paul is a Wounded Warrior and has suffered several TBI’s, has severe PTSD, and has had multiple surgeries on his back. His frustration with not being able to work due to his disabilities left him very sad and feeling purposeless. His equally beautiful inside and out wife, Shanika, just celebrated her 19th year in active duty. Paul was at home all day alone, until he found Pit/Boxer mix, “Petey”. Training Petey and Paul was so easy and rewarding – Petey picks up on Paul’s sadness, anxiety, anger, everything – and never leaves his side. Petey is a perfectly trained Service Dog, and Paul was a HUGE part of that – studying the manual daily (he has short-term memory problems), practicing, and giving Petey more love than I could ever imagine. Paul often says that if it weren’t for Petey in his life, he doesn’t know if he would be here right now.

Then, Paul and Shanika rescued “Brian” from a friend who was going to have him euthanized because of a problem in his hip. They couldn’t allow this – so they brought Brian into their home, paid for the surgery on his hip, and now, he runs and plays as happily and healthily as any dog – and the veterinarian said he is completely fixed. Overall, they have spent thousands of dollars on both dogs to help with any medical issues – but they realize that these special dogs are God’s creatures and deserve everything we can give them. Shanika even has her own little dog, “Scarlett”, a tiny, beautiful comfort to Shanika. Scarlett tries to play with big Petey and Brian, but she and her little underbite have to be careful not to get squished!

Well, over the past year and after Brian’s surgery, Paul started training Brian like he trained Petey. Brian would mimic a lot of Petey’s perfect Service Dog actions – like immediate “sits”, “downs”, “sit/stays”, “down/stays”, “heeling”, and the command “kennel” – where both dogs immediately went to their big comfy kennels without hesitation – even Scarlett would lie down in the kennels with them! But Paul talked with Shanika, and although they loved Brian as one of their family, Paul felt that it was selfish for them to hang on to such a bright and gentle dog that they knew could be helping someone else. It was a tremendously difficult decision for Paul to make because he had bonded to Brian, but he knew there was that perfect “someone” that Brian could help the way Petey helped him. The way Jayna’s family and Paul came together I can only attribute to divine intervention.

After over four hours together with Jayne’s family and Paul and Petey, it was obvious that this was going to be a perfect fit. Jayna’s mother told me that several people that have children with ACC asked her why she didn’t want a completely trained Service Dog for Jayna. Her reasoning was perfect. She understood that the most important part of the process of training a Service Dog is having that bond develop through constant time together, and training together – making steps forward and also learning from mistakes. I absolutely agree. This training process, I believe, as I do with all client who have brain disorders, strengthens the connectivity between the neurons in the brain of the client. The brain actually changes as a result of training – as I have seen on PET scans of Wounded Warriors with PTSD and TBI after they have trained for six months during a study I had the luck to be part of. I have no doubt that this will be the case with Jayna. So far, Jayna’s mother has said that in the short time (a few days) that they have had Brian, he absolutely will not leave her side. She even shared one beautiful anecdote with me; the family was at church the day after adopting Brian (he’s not ready for Church yet), and Jayna’s mother saw Jayna started to become unfocused during the service. She repeated to Jayna, “Remember Jayna, you have to try to focus”. Well, she heard Jayna in the house later that day walking around with Brian and repeating, “Brian, remember, we BOTH have to try to focus”. It was amazing.

Paul had a difficult time saying goodbye to Brian, as he has difficulty holding in his emotions at times. But Jayna’s father stayed inside with Paul alone as we packed up everything Paul and Shanika donated to Jayna’s family – including the crate, blankets, dog bowls, food, toys, a dog bed – and they talked together about what a ministry Paul was doing by giving so much to help another family. This truly helped Paul, and the family was so understanding of Paul’s mix of sadness, tears, but also joy in knowing he was doing what he needed to do. They will always stay in touch – I know they will be friends forever – and when I called Paul that night to see how he was handling it, he actually sounded more at peace than I have ever heard from him in almost two years. Jayna’s family, in the meantime, is beyond grateful. Jayna may never grow up to be a perfectly “normal” young woman, but with Brian’s help, she will most certainly improve. I can’t wait to follow them. They will be continuing training with Candace, our trainer in Ft. Worth if she is able (she is going through some very difficult medical issues herself) – but I will be more than happy to train with them in Dallas or if they come down here for extended sessions!!

You can even see in these pictures how Jayna, who is usually shy around strangers, especially meeting Paul who is extremely tall with a shoe size of a zillion, warmed up to him enough so they could pose together and he hugged her.

THIS is what happens when two beautiful tiny “villages” come together with nothing but compassion and love to give. It is God’s grace shining his light on our world – which we all need to remember CAN happen.

If you are interested in finding out more about this rare disease – especially if you have a child with autistic traits, please visit:

Roxanna and “Abby Rose”

From our busy trainer, Beverli, who had her first session with Roxanna and her SDIT, Red Australian Cattle Dog, “Abby Rose”. Roxanna suffers from agoraphobia (difficulty leaving her home due to anxiety), and panic attacks.

Beverli writes:

“Today I assessed “Abby Rose” to get a baseline for where she was in her knowledge of basic training skills. We all went for a walk, and I taught Roxanne to reinforce “heeling”. I also showed Roxanne how to redirect Abby Rose when she heard another dog, or saw a person walking on the sidewalk. Abby Rose is a very friendly dog, so she wants to meet and lick everyone we pass! We will be working to help Abby Rose learn to ignore other people and dogs we encounter in public.

We started learning the “touch” command today, as a building block for anxiety and panic attack service work. Homework given for the next session was working on “touch”, and “heeling with random stop/sits, with Abby Rose’s focus on Roxanne.”

Abby Rose has a wonderful bond with her Roxanne. She has a great work drive, and is a fast learner. She and Roxanne will do great in our course!

Evalynn and SDIT Oreo

From our super trainer, Terry, in El Paso, who is working with Evalynn and her SDIT, Chihuahua “Oreo”! Evalynn suffers from severe anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. Terry is GOOD – Chihuahuas are not the easiest breed to train as Service Dogs, but he is doing a wonderful job and we are proud of both him and Evalynn!

Terry writes:

Today, Evalynn, Oreo and I trained at a restaurant in El Paso Texas – the Corner Bakery. Evalynn & Oreo’s first restaurant exposure went quite well! Oreo displayed a little uneasiness when we first arrived at the restaurant; realistically that is normal behavior. First exposures always take some getting used to. I will say that about fifteen minutes upon our sitting down, Oreo was more at ease, and started to sit and lay down while we were eating. There were continuous distractions in the busy restaurant, but Oreo was at ease with the distractions! When Evalynn proceeded to the restroom, Oreo did not whine or pull to accompany her, but Oreo kept an eye out for her until she returned to her seat. One of the major distractions in the restaurant was that there were other dogs in the place; that did not seem to faze Oreo at all! Keep up the good work Evalynn & Oreo!

Wounded Warrior Tonya and Bella

From our excellent trainer, Terry, in El Paso, who had his second session with Wounded Warrior Tonya and her SDIT, Yorkshire Terrier “Bella”! Tonya suffers from PTSD, severe anxiety, and panic attacks.

Terry writes:

“We started today’s session at the park, reinforcing the basic commands “sit”, “down”, “avoiding noise distractions”, and “six foot recall on lead”. Next, we moved to a store setting for the initial exposure to a public place with both Tonya and Bella. The key to success is repetition; doing it the same way, at a particular time, with the same commands, and performing the exercises correctly over and over until they are consistent. One of the key factors is, practice-practice- and more practice! Our overall session went quite well! I could tell that Tonya and Bella are putting a lot of time into their practice sessions. Keep up the good work, and success will surely come during test time!

Evalynn and Oreo

From our trainer Terry, in El Paso, who did an assessment with new client Evalynn, who suffers from depression, stress and severe social anxiety. She would like a Service Dog who will distract her from her depressive thoughts, scratching herself, major panic attacks, and feeling lonely. Her SDIT is a 5 year-old Chihuahua named “Oreo”.

Terry writes:

“A temperament and trainability test was performed on Oreo, and he passed with flying colors! Oreo knows some basic commands, and upon command executed them to a good degree of accuracy. From my observation, I can detect a very strong bond between Evalynn and Oreo, and the dog’s willingness to assist and please Evalynn. This is a small dog – only 8 lbs, and the living arrangement with other dogs and cats in the home is excellent. The dogs have a fenced in back yard where they exercise and play in a safe environment. I checked for any skin discoloration, scars, protruding bones, teeth decay, and any other sign that might indicate a pending health risk, and there was none found. I would highly recommend Evalynn and her dog Oreo for Service Dog training. It will be a pleasure to work with them!”

Midwest Center for Stress & Anxiety – Center for Anxiety and Depression

For all of you suffering from panic attacks and anxiety – this program WORKS. I went through it and I never had a panic attack again. I was actually so healed that they flew us out and I was on one of their commercials. I know there are naysayers, but I can personally say it works.

The Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety – The Most Effective Drug-Free Anxiety and Depression Program

Source: Midwest Center for Stress & Anxiety – Center for Anxiety and Depression | Stress relief treatment center California | Drug treatment centers California | Counseling and Psychological services

From our dear client and friend, Christina

From our dear client and friend, Christina, whose husband, a district attorney who helps sexual assault victims like Christina, organized this walk to raise money for other victims! She writes:

“Thank you to everyone who donated to raise funds for Eric’s Walk A Mile In Her Shoes! Eric and Scott you are my heroes! We were in some of the photos that the Palestine Herald – Press posted! A special thank you to Roxy, my forever companion and source of comfort! Your loyalty amazes me!!”

Roxy, her Service Dog, even did the walk!!

CONGRATULATIONS to Greg and his now Service Dog, Missy!!!

A HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to Greg and his now Service Dog, Missy!!! This absolutely remarkable team passed their Public Access Test flawlessly – and even went above and beyond by learning tasks and commands that were not even on the Public Access Test!

Greg’s compassionate, intelligent, and dedicated commitment to working with Missy, along with Missy’s remarkable ability to be trained and her remarkable, gentle temperament as a formerly neglected shelter dog have made this process so incredibly easy. Each training session is a joy for all three of us!!

The Public Access Test was done at North Star Mall. Missy took the bus for the first time (Greg does not drive), and she was a pro. We went into tons of stores and explored all kinds of distractions – but nothing fazed Missy. We performed each and every command in the Public Access Test, and she received a 100% PLUS. The most amazing thing is to watch how much people gravitate toward her. There is a softness in her eyes and in her demeanor that just draw people – from very young children to very elderly adults to want to meet her. She is loving and gracious toward everyone. She listens to every command that Greg gives her, without hesitation. Even the elevator ride was fun for her!! That tail is always wagging!

Missy had a lot of fun in the Disney store, at Spencer’s trying on eyeglasses, and going in shoe stores – she just LOVES the smell of sneakers! Especially blue ones!! (But none of them fit).

Greg has also noticed that now that she has switched foods to Evolve, Missy’s digestive system and appetite are working much better than the food she was originally on. I plan on maintaining a life-long friendship with these two – they have both significantly impacted my life. And Greg has been able to decrease his anxiety medications, get out and exercise more because of Missy, which has helped with his weight and diabetes, and he is much more socially engaged!

I also know that Missy would do amazing Therapy Dog work. Greg would love to try that with her.

What a blessing it has been to work with these two. Words cannot express.

Carmen and SDIT Ollie

From our trainer Jackie, who is working with Carmen, who suffers from PTSD, anxiety, and panic attacks due to sexual assault, and her SDIT, “Ollie”.

SDIT Ollie recently joined SDE with handler Carmen. Ollie is a 5 year old Lab/Shiba Inu/Shar Pei mix, and yes, he is an interesting blend of stunning. Ollie was assessed for his capability to become a Service Dog for his handler, Carmen, who suffers from PTSD. Ollie already has passed the Canine Good Citizen Test, so has his basic commands down well. Ollie is very in tune with Carmen. The new team will begin working on more public exposure and re-enforcing Ollie’s current training.

Carmen and her SDIT for PTSD Ollie had their first session today. Carmen brought family members that she lives with to the training so that they could learn the do’s and don’ts related to Service Dogs. Additionally, we wanted Ollie to focus solely on Carmen despite distractions and despite the familiarity of others in the home. Carmen worked with Ollie on sitting and waiting at the end of every aisle. The younger children provided various distractions that Ollie had to work on ignoring. We worked on anticipating possible problems. For instance, Ollie is already has previous training and is in sync with Carmen. However, with a new role in her life, I encouraged Carmen to provide more hand signals and verbal feedback in advance regarding what tasks she wanted Ollie to perform. Ollie also worked on “leave it”, “stay”, and “recall.” The new team made great progress!

Carmen and her PTSD SDIT Ollie had their second session today. Again, Carmen brought a family member to continue to educate the family and to continue to work on Ollie’s ability to deal with focus and distractions. This session occurred at a local restaurant, which was only Ollie’s second time in an eating establishment. We continued to work on having Carmen providing continuous feedback to Ollie regarding what she needed from him and letting him know when he was on task. Ollie did great with “leave it.” He was very alert to everyone and everything around him. Carmen will continue to work on recognizing Ollie’s nonverbal communication to her. Ollie already has some natural alerting but will require some redirection in how to perform these tasks, and Carmen will begin working on noticing these behaviors more. Ollie responded very well in the eating establishment although he did get a little antsy when people walked by. Carmen and Ollie will continue to work on re-enforcing his commands in public settings.

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.