Category Archives: PTSD

Wounded Warrior Ethan, and SDIT Shae’mus

From our trainer, Terry, who has been working with Wounded Warrior, Ethan, and his SDIT, Mastiff Mix, “Shae’mus”. Ethan suffers from PTSD, TBI, anxiety, and depression. This was Terry’s sixth and seventh session with Ethan.

Terry writes:

“What can I say about these sessions? Priceless!!! We had a family outing at one of our favorite restaurants in El Paso. Before entering the Service Dog Express Program, Ethan rarely left the house, and family time outside the house was non-existent. Today the proof is in the pudding, and the pictures are worth a thousand words! Now, Ethan, with the assistance of his SDIT Shae’mus, are enjoying an active, meaningful, and productive life, while reestablishing the loving bond with his family and friends. That is the true value of the Service Dog Express program!”

At the next session with Ethan and SDIT, Shae’mus, we met at the Mall, went to the park, and went to a restaurant in El Paso.
This was a round robin training session. I, Ethan, and Shae’mus, engaged in three different areas, similar to how I conduct my testing to prepare for the Public Access Test. I opened up the session by explaining what I expected on testing day, and demonstrated each exercise if the client was not sure how to perform the task. Ethan and Shae’mus needed minimal guidance if any! It is truly rewarding when you arrive on site, and the client is already their early practicing there craft! That is dedication and commitment for success. The sessions went very well, and am confident that Ethan & Shae’mus will do well on their Public Access Test. Keep up the great work!”

SO proud of all of you – Ethan, Shae’mus, and Terry – and you are right – that IS what we strive for!!!! Congratulations!

Laura and Little Pumpkin

From our trainer, Cherry, who is working with Laura, who suffers from cancer, recovered congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, Graves disease, anxiety, depression and PTSD. Her SDIT is little “Pumpkin”.

Cherry writes:

“Laura and her SDIT little Pumpkin are doing really well! Laura puts a lot of time into training her little darling and the results were clear at today’s session.

Pumpkin has mastered her sit and stay at 6 feet! Quite a feat for a little dog that loves to be close to mommy. A tiled floor like Target is great for training because the tiles are exactly one foot in length so its easier to gauge a six foot recall by counting the tiles. Pumpkin is also doing really well with walking with the cart and keeping close to Laura.

Pumpkin is an amazing emotional support for Laura and knows when she is showing signs of anxiety; Pumpkin will jump right up into her lap and reach to wash her face with kisses to ease her tension and it works!

Laura’s homework is to practice Down and Stay, which Pumpkin finds more of a struggle to perform, but with Laura’s determination I know they will get there!!

Update from Vietnam Vet – Denise

It’s truly wonderful to hear news from our clients about how their Service Dogs continue to help them in ways they didn’t even expect – this is a result of consistent training even after they have passed the Public Access Test and BONDING!

From our client, Denise, a Wounded Warrior from the Vietnam Era who passed her Public Access Test with the help of trainer, Brenda, and her Service Dog, Sandy! Denise is wheelchair-bound, but she tries not to let that inhibit her!!! This also highlights the importance of letting Laurie contact the airlines for you when you are traveling.

“Good Afternoon Laurie! Sandy and I are doing well also. As you can tell Sandy and I are on the road again. We are on our way to Houston for our family reunion, so I need your help again with arrangements for our trip. Whenever you contact the airport for me things run so much smoother, and I really appreciate that help from you. So I am sending you our itinerary for our trip and I would appreciate your help again.

I wanted to tell you something about the training I received for Sandy. I know Sandy was trained to help me with my PTSD, but I had no idea how well she understood her role until I got back from California. About two weeks after I returned, for some reason I had a meltdown. I was hysterically crying and unable to stop. All of a sudden, I started calling for Sandy; the next thing I knew I heard her jump out of her chair, come running through the apartment, jumped and flew through the air, jumped on top of me and pressed herself on me and held me down to calm me down, and she didn’t leave until I calmed down enough to fall asleep. It happened a second time and she did the same thing again. So I want to thank you again for your training course! Thank you so much for your help and understanding.”

Doesn’t something like that just fill your heart with joy?

Congratulations, team! Rachel and her now SERVICE DOG, “Bella”

Congratulations, team! From our wonderful trainer, Sue, who has been working with Rachel and her now SERVICE DOG, “Bella”! They passed their Public Access Test! Rachel is 7 years old and was diagnosed with PTSD this past year. Her triggers are loud noises and “knocking” sounds, where she tends to shut down and dose not communicate well in crowds. Sue worked with Rachel and Rachel’s mother, Rebecca throughout the process.

Sue writes:

Rachel and Bella are an awesome team. We started 10 March 2015 and worked within her financial means. Rebecca and Rachel were very dedicated to training. When we first started training, Bella used to be bird, dog and cat reactive and pull on a leash. Not anymore!! Bella ignores distractions like this, gets along with other dogs and cats now, and heels perfectly. Bella knows how to use the elevator and has ridden the bus. She goes with Rachel to her equine therapy sessions. Bella is still a little scared of the horses, but we keep her at a tolerable distance from them. She also walks Rachel to school. When Rebecca and Rachel go to stores, Rachel has her own special short leash that I had her pick out and Bella walks between Rachel and Rebecca. Bella walks very nicely by a grocery cart.

I still have Rebecca take Rachel and Bella on short trips to the stores and to the grocery store during low traffic times. I have them go to restaurants where they can eat quickly or have the waiter bring their food in a to-go box in case they have to do a quick exit if Rachel starts to experience severe symptoms.

I will continue doing other training with them as they can afford.

Someday, it would be nice to allow Bella to go to Rachel’s school, but that is hard to do within the school district – but we will work on that. So, right now Rachel can have Bella go with her in public and to restaurants without having panic attacks. Rebecca has a plan for restaurants and stores in case Rachel has her anxiety attacks. A family member is usually with them in case they are needed.

Rachel has had fewer meltdowns since we have trained Bella!”

Wounded Warrior Paul and Bobby

Laurie had her first training session with Wounded Warrior Paul, who suffers from PTSD and other disabilities. Paul had started training his GORGEOUS Standard Poodle, “Bobby”, with a trainer before, but that trainer moved. So, Bobby and Paul have a lot of the basic training skills down pat, and they are a joy to work with.

Paul, unfortunately, was working successfully with Time Warner Cable in a cubicle, but when he mentioned that he would be bringing his Service Dog to work with him once fully trained, Human Resources said that they would NOT make accommodations for his Service Dog!! Paul had many meetings with the supervisors there in Human Resources, patiently explaining his rights and the fact that having Bobby there would not cause any disruptions but would help him during difficult calls from customers – but they denied him over and over! Luckily, Paul taped these conversations and I was able to listen to them. It took everything Paul had to calm his anxiety and PTSD during these sessions – he was practicing deep breathing – and even though everything the HR people were saying was against the law, Paul kept his calm. I was so proud of him – and SO angry with Time Warner! Paul has hired a lawyer to help him sue for discrimination, which is the absolute right thing to do – and I will be happy to help him after hearing the completely uneducated and uninformed way that the HR department treated him and Service Dog rights.

Paul is no longer working for Time Warner because of this, which makes things very difficult for his budget. However, he has a wonderful attitude and a clear, smart head – I hope that he triumphs in this case, and we will continue training “Bobby” – which will undoubtedly be a breeze! They have such an amazing bond!

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!

Madeline and SDIT, American Staffordshire, Hera

From our dear trainer, Emmett, in Georgetown, who is working with Madeline and her SDIT, American Staffordshire, “Hera”. Madeline suffers from PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

Emmett writes:

“This was my fourth session with Madeline and beautiful “Hera”. Today, we went to Target, and worked on getting Hera to “cover” Maddie both in front and behind to help keep Maddie calm in stressful or crowded situations. We also worked on having Hera look back on cue to give Maddie a better sense of security when she is walking alone. Finally, we worked on Deep Pressure Therapy. This was the task we worked on the most today. It was the hardest for Hera to catch on to, but it is very important to help someone when they are feeling anxious.

In addition to disability-related tasks, we worked on Hera’s “sit/stay” and “down/stay”. Hera performs a beautiful “sit/stay”, but her “down/stay” could use some work.

This was Maddie and Hera’s first session after a long break with central Texas trainer, Jackie, who has moved to a different territory to cover. Hera and Maddie seem to have made significant progress since then, which means they have been working hard during the break!

Hera knows “down”, “sit”, “stay”, “leave it” (her record is 15 minutes for leaving dropped food), “controlled exit and entry into and out of a vehicle”, “heel”, and avoiding distractions. When they are out together, Hera’s sole focus is on Maddie. They have a wonderful bond.

For homework, Maddie and Hera will be working on “cover”, “check”, and DPT as well as Hera’s “down/stay”. At the next session, we will be conducting a mock Public Access Test so that Maddie and Hera can get a feel for the process.

Wounded Warrior William and SDiT Justiz

From our lovely trainer, Beverli, who had her second training session with Wounded Warrior, William, and his SDIT, Catahoula/Beagle mix, “Justiz”! William suffers from PTSD and severe anxiety.

Beverli writes:

“Today, we had our second training session at Petsmart. We worked on heeling in public amidst all the Petsmart distractions, with having Justiz keep his focus on William, as well as random “stops”, sits, and “leave it” when encountering other dogs in the store. Justiz NATURALLY covers, both in a sit, and when standing! She seems to know exactly how much pressure to put on her handler to make William feel safe. So we allowed her to do this, while talking about why she’s choosing to cover, and helping him recognize how he’s feeling.

Justiz is so in tune with William, that she has a hard time with “stay”. She just wants to be as close to him as possible, so this will need lots of extra attention when William walks away from Justiz – but overall, the reasoning is understandable.

This was our first session outside of their home, so today was about getting a baseline for Justiz’ manners and training in public.
Homework given for William and Justiz to work on was to start “fetch”, “target touch”, and “sit/stay”.

American Airlines Update


July 10, 2015

Dear Ms. Gawelko:

On behalf of American Airlines and US Airways, thank you for contacting us. I’m sorry that I was unable to reach you by telephone earlier today.

The travel experience you’ve described is regrettable, and we apologize for the difficulties Mr. Willis encountered. Our intention is to offer the best travel experience possible. The details you have provided indicate that we have failed to meet our intentions.

I have documented your displeasure with how we enforce our policies as they relate to service animals and emotional support animals and will ensure your comments are forwarded to the appropriate managers for internal review. Our job in Customer Relations is to listen to passenger’s issues and concerns and give each a code for reporting purposes. Feedback of this nature is vital, and will be used in an effort to improve our service.

This method has proven very successful; in fact, many of our current policies, procedures and positive changes are a direct result of customer feedback.

Given the privilege of serving Mr. Willis again, I am confident we can provide him more satisfying travel experience. Thank you for taking the time to speak to us on his behalf.


Kale K.
Customer Relations
American Airlines

Meghan and her SDIT, Precious

Our trainer, Taylor, in Austin, is working with Meghan and her SDIT, Precious. Meghan suffers from PTSD, severe anxiety/depression, and fibromyalgia.

Meghan writes:

“Most nights when I sleep, I have severe nightmares and wake up every few hours. The anxiety from the PTSD, nightmares, flashbacks causes severe panic attacks. The anxiety leads to depression which makes leaving the house difficult. At times, the fibromyalgia leaves me exhausted, affecting my ability to stand and my general ability to function or concentrate. I’ll collapse or have to sit down wherever I’m at. My speech can even become slurred. I also am in constant pain. I am disabled and have a part time job but only work 16 hours (4 hours days) due to a doctor recommendation. This at times leaves me with little or no energy. My psychiatrist recommended that a Service Dog might help me with panic attacks, PTSD, and even the depression. Recently even my physician suggested a Service Dog for both my PTSD (panic attacks) and fibromyalgia.

A Service Dog would be a constant companion I could rely on. Helping me realize when the PTSD is causing me to hallucinate and have flashbacks. My companion would help me focus my thoughts in these moments. He would also help me to keep from becoming overwhelmed by my surroundings. A companion will be able to give more of confidence when I step out because he would be able to notify me if I am having a panic attack or starting to disassociate with my surroundings forcing me to focus on him instead of my fear. He would also allow me to exercise and function better outside of the house. Part of my fear is if I become tired or have a fibro spell I will have no help. Most days I will not leave without my boyfriend. A Service Dog could also help for when the fibromyalgia leaves me with no energy and I start to collapse, by giving me someone to lean on physically and emotionally. I have also heard that they can help comfort you when the PTSD causes nightmares and can help with the nightmares. This would be wonderful, as I sleep very little especially at one time. I wake up some nights and am even afraid to go to the bathroom or I lay awake afraid to go to sleep. Having someone there to remind me what is and isn’t real, that will stand by my side will be an immense relief. He would help me function better when I go out and perform daily activities.

What an amazing amount of insight Meghan has about Service Dogs and how they can help!

Taylor writes:

“After a long hiatus from training with this pair, I had a session with Meghan and Precious a couple days ago. We met at a Target. I have to say I am super impressed with the work/training that Meghan has done with Precious. He heels perfect by her side, inside and outside in public.

We worked all the behaviors that are expected from the Public Access Test inside Target. We went by the produce and meat section to work on Precious not lunging towards the smells, he did awesome!

We also worked on “down/stays” and “sit/stays” while Meghan walked away from Precious, while I walked by and while a random stranger walked by as well. Precious held his position every time!

At our second session, I met with Meghan and Precious at Barnes and Noble. She wanted to meet there to work on the elevator. Precious did great the first time we got on the elevator, but then the second time, he got very nervous. So now we have to start from the beginning by desensitizing him to the elevator.
His “down/stays” and “sit/stays” were still very good along with all the basic commands, and Precious stays in heel position very well once Meghan drops the leash by his side. We also spent some time sitting in the cafe, seeing how he settles while people walk by him. He definitely needs more work on not getting up to smell or greet people!

Precious started getting a little whiny halfway through the session, so I gave Meghan some tips on how to watch his threshold and try to get him outside before he starts whining and not allow him to rehearse that behavior.

Overall, it was a great session; Precious just needs more work on the elevator and increasing his threshold of being in public for longer periods of time.”