Category Archives: Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)

Lauren and Decker Update

From our lovely trainer, Cherry:

“Even though gorgeous Decker has passed his Public Access Test, Lauren likes to have follow-up training sessions and advice with new situations that might pop up. Young Lauren called for me to help her for when Lauren goes to Physical Therapy. Although her mother sits with Decker during the sessions, Lauren told me he whines and makes a fuss, and it doesn’t matter that he can clearly see Lauren just feet away. So I went along to their session to see what was happening and to try and help. Immediately I could see the problem. Lauren was handing the leash to her mother and then walking away with the Physical Therapist. What she wasn’t doing was letting Decker know what to do, and assuring Decker that all was fine. So I told her to tell Decker assertively to “Down” and “Stay”, which he did immediately and sat through the entire session without a peep!

Very often things like this really are just simple fixes, and now Lauren knows that when she goes for her Physical Therapy, she must let Decker know exactly what she wants from him.”

This is why it is SO important for clients to follow up with trainers for the life of the dog, as SDE promises in our contract, as does Cherry’s rescue, “In Dog We Trust” – Service Dog training never truly ends!

Madison’s meet and greet

From our trainer, Brenda, who is working with Madison, who suffers from “POTS” (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), bad migraines, and a nerve condition that makes her go randomly paralyzed. Since the day she woke up and couldn’t move, she has also suffered from PTSD and anxiety.

Brenda writes:

“I met Madison and her mom, Robin, for a meet and greet with some dogs. They met Suzy, Rocky, and Rufus. Madison spent quite a bit of time with Rufus who, after getting some energy out, calmed down very well and kept going to Madison and sitting by her. He knows the verbal and hand command “sit” and seemed to like the praise even more than the treats. I could touch him all over and even pull on his ears and tail and he was not bothered. They are going to discuss it with Madison’s father, but Rufus could be the one!”

Catt and Baron

From our dear trainer, Catherine, in Virginia – and update on her own Service Dog, beautiful Baron!!!


Service Dog Express's photo.

My Service Dog, Baron, is nearly 11 months old now, and after much debate with myself about when was the appropriate time to neuter him, I decided to

do it as soon as possible. He was neutered last week. I was an absolute disaster the day he was there; my childhood dog passed away during a routine surgery years ago, so I just was so worried about Baron.

I have discovered I am a very overprotective momma when it comes to Baron. Ever since my wonderful dog, Duke, recently died of a very aggressive brain tumor at such a young age (2), I worry (sometimes a little too much LOL) over Baron. At not even a year old, the vet receptionists all know my phone number when it pops up on their incoming calls! But he’s perfectly healthy!

Baron and I have continued our training since he passed his Public Access Test some time ago, and the number of commands he knows is astonishing to me. We’ve been invited to speak again to some of the Companion Animal classes here at Virginia Tech and I’m very excited about that!

Baron has helped me so much through my struggles with my health. As you may remember, I have chronic Lyme disease as well as a couple co-infections. I’ve had my PICC line in for about 3 months now – I believe it’s getting removed in a week or so – and have been on a lot of medications. I’m FINALLY starting to feel better!!! So thank goodness for that. One thing that has come up through all this is that I was originally diagnosed with POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or Dysautonomia) after doctors examined me, because I had a lot of instances where I would be totally fine and then I would fall over unconscious. Baron alerts to it! So, since I’ve had him, I’ve been able to either leave class or sit down so that when I drop, it’s not in a public or dangerous situation. In the last month or so there has been some debate on if I actually have POTS or if these are mini drop seizures. Still debating that, but either way Baron keeps me very safe from them!

So now on to list the massive number of commands he knows:

– Sit/Stay
– Down/Stay
– Here (our version of Come)
– Heeling – both on and off leash
– Load Up
– Let’s Go – getting out of the car
– Drop – drop it
– Cover – front and back
– Get It – pick up and bring whatever I point at (literally anything, including a piece of bacon I made him retrieve without eating…I’m a meanie I know)
– Under – going under table, chair, etc.
– Focus – eye contact
– Interrupting anxious behaviors
– Waking me up from night terrors
– Alerting to my “drop episodes”
– Pull – helping me up stairs or hills
– Lay – deep pressure therapy
– Place – go to your bed
– Tug – open pull doors/cabinets or pulling doors closed
– Close It – closing doors/cabinets
– Light – turning lights on (we haven’t learned turning them off yet)
– Push – pushing button for elevator or handicap door
– Get _____ – he knows the difference between Phone, Book, Meds, Keys, Leash
– Hold – he likes to carry things for me LOL like grocery lists. He’ll just carry it around wherever we go
– Back Up – backwards heel
– Out – get out of whatever room he’s currently in
– Put it – point at table or wherever and he’ll put his object on it
– Take it to ____ – heknows me and my mom so far
– Shake
– Rollover – by far his favorite command ever; if I’m trying to teach him something new and he doesn’t know what I’m asking he just rolls over!
– Around – run around me in a circle
– Bang – play dead

As you can see, there are a LOT of commands LOL! He loves to learn new things though and he is such an absolute joy to train. There are of course some fun commands in there, too, because he has to have something to show off to the kids we speak to.  Anyways, that is my update! I’ll attach some pictures of Baron too! In one of them he is wearing his “doggy pajamas”. Yup you read that right!! Baron blew out his entire undercoat in November and didn’t grow one back…he’s odd – what can I say. He’s a shorter-haired Golden Retriever and he also has very thin hair. So he gets cold – he has 3 pairs of doggy pajamas (I only have pictures of the one) that he has to wear some days when it’s below a certain temperature. Otherwise, he refuses to go outside and if I force him out, his teeth chatter and he shivers. I think he’s actually a giant chihuahua, but that’s just me LOL.

Catt & Baron


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

It shows when clients do the homework

From our trainer, Cherry, who is working with 19 year-old Lauren, who suffers from Dysautonomia/Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.

“When clients do their homework, it really shows; and Lauren and Goldendoodle Decker showed off today how far they have come!

Taking Decker everywhere Lauren needs to go is very important to Lauren, so public behavior has been high on our list as it is with every dog seeking its Public Access Test

Decker was originally scared of walking past refrigerators/freezers in stores because of the noise they made, and the swishing employees double doors at the supermarket. I explained to Lauren that as she approached these places, I noticed she would look down at Decker expecting him to be afraid, so he fed on her nervousness and became afraid.

So, I taught her how to walk confidently past these obstacles and not respond to Decker; just keep walking as if nothing is wrong. Decker responded beautifully and walked past all the things he’s been afraid of before. I explained how your expectations of a dog’s fear can in fact create it.

I told Lauren how proud I am of her that she has listened to everything she has been taught, not only about training but about dog psychology and how dogs think. Understanding how a dog’s mind works can help one to use them to be the best they can be.

Decker lays on Lauren’s back on command, as the deep pressure helps with her pain, fetches her medications, and watches Lauren on command; the three tasks they have mastered beautifully.

There is nothing so beautiful as a dog trainer like myself seeing such a connection and results with determination and practice.

Update: They did it! What a great team! Lauren and Decker passed their PAT with flying colors!

This team have come a long way in such a short space of time. Decker was originally nervous of large doorways and buzzing machines and even TV’s blaring loudly in the stores, but with the right training, he now passes them all without a single reaction!

Load, unload, walking calmly around traffic, sit, stay, wait, leave it, heel, polite with strangers and ignoring loud noises – he did them all like he’d been doing it forever!

This is mainly because of Decker’s 19 year-old handler, Lauren, who wanted her dog to be her Service Dog so badly that she put 100% into her homework and practiced hard. The result is a very well-trained and well-behaved dog!

Lauren’s mom Shari has been a huge support throughout so I insisted she got in on the picture!

I will still be a source of support and info for Lauren if she needs me, which after today’s performance I doubt will be very often!

Congratulations Lauren and Decker!!


Lauren and SDiT Decker

Cherry had a wonderful training session with Lauren, who suffers from Dysautonomia/Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), and her SDIT, Decker. She writes:

“Lauren and I had a great training session today. We talked about the importance of having her “dog training voice” and not just the “mommy who loves Decker” voice. J I like to give examples, so I asked her how she would speak if Decker was walking towards something that would hurt him? She agreed her voice would be much firmer, and that’s the voice she needs with Decker who needs positive direction.

Their heeling, sits, and stays are doing very well as well. We also worked on stair climbing. Decker likes to go ahead of Lauren on the stairs, which can be dangerous for Lauren, so I taught her to get Decker into a firm SIT! before attempting the climb.   This snapped Decker out of his mission to go on ahead, and he walked nicely next to her up the stairs and down again. Lauren agreed it made a huge difference!

We started working on their three specific tasks today. One of them was to fetch Lauren’s medications. We needed to start with an empty bottle; this was just for Decker to get the idea of bringing the meds to her but we didn’t want any risk of the bottle being punctured and Decker ingesting any of them. I also told Lauren that you should never try teaching a dog to fetch push out meds from a cardboard container; it’s too dangerous because the cardboard will soften in the dog’s saliva and then the drugs inside can accidentally be swallowed.

Once we feel safe and are confident that Decker will just retrieve and not try to chew or play on the bottle, we can start adding small amounts of meds so that he can get used to the sound of the bottle.
Lauren is going to spend lots of time practicing; next time we are going to do some more in-public store work.

Only 10 minutes to learn

From our wonderful trainer, Catherine, in Virginia, who is having some very new experiences with her SD, Baron! Despite have POTS and several other medical issues, she is a trainer extraordinaire! Catherine writes:

“Hi Laurie! So I’m up in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec in Canada. I was super worried about having issues with Baron being with me as my Service Dog, but I have had zero issues the last 2 days! I did bring his rabies certificate and vaccination records, and the certificate from SDE stating that he passed the PAT just in case, and I did have to show it once. Normally, I would have given a lecture about how it wasn’t required to show it like normal, but since it’s another country, I just showed them his vaccines and everything and they were satisfied. They weren’t really even questioning it; they just asked that if I did have any papers that I showed them, but if not it was alright.

This is Baron’s first time seeing snow so that has been a blast! My family is skiing but since I can’t with my leg and the PICC line I now have in (my health has been extremely bad), I’ve been just hanging out with Baron and teaching him new tasks. I attached a video of his newest one! Him picking things up for me has become one of his main tasks since I’ve been having a lot of mobility issues. We’re next working on him taking things from others (like my family) and bringing it to me and vice versa. Baron LOVES the mobility tasks – they’re his favorite!! Teaching him to “put it on the table” only took about 10 minutes! He loves learning those and looks so proud when he does!”

Lauren and Gorgeous Goldendoodle Decker

From our trainer, Cherry, who is working with Lauren. Lauren suffers with Dysautonomia/Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS).

“Today was our first training day. We spent the first few minutes discussing Lauren’s needs and what she wants from her gorgeous dog Goldendoodle, Decker.

We did some leash and position training, and I showed Lauren how to encourage Decker to walk close to Lauren in a heel position.  Lauren suffers with back pain and told me how much she would love it if we could train Decker to lay on her back, as pressure eases the discomfort.

We began by using her mom as help, and between us we slowly eased Decker into the position Lauren wanted. Decker was uneasy at doing it at first as it is not a normal thing for a dog to do – on the chest yes, but the back is a little different, especially asking him to stay there. But he did catch on soon and stay in position, and we were able to walk away.

Then we transferred the command to Lauren, who called Decker to her to lay on her back, pairing it with the words “walk on me” – which he did brilliantly. Lauren’s mom was so pleased she even took a video of it.

Tomorrow we are going to work on properly going through doorways and continue our leash work.

Lauren who is going to work hard on her homework!