The Elizabeth Dole Foundation recognized Brain Injury Awareness Month by calling attention to the unique needs and resources available to those who care for service members and veterans who sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI). More than 320,000 service members have returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with a TBI, and the Foundation’s …
The animal rescue world is challenging on the best of days. We see the broken and unwanted of the City of San Antonio on a daily basis. One of the most unforgettable of those days was 5 weeks ago, when Capone walked through our door. He was starving, with patches of hair missing, broken teeth, and his ears jagged and cropped…you won’t believe his transformation…read more at SAPA – San Antonio Pets Alive | Capone’s Story
CONGRATULATIONS TO WOUNDED WARRIOR RACHEL AND HER NOW SERVICE DOG, “BEAR”!!!!! Rachel suffers from diagnosed with PTSD and a TBI after a vehicle accident where she was the sole survivor. Her previous Service Dog was killed by her neighbor. Bear was given to our family in the aftermath of the loss of her beloved “Toby”.
Wonderful trainer Letty writes:
“Congratulations to Rachel and Bear for passing their PAT (Public Access Test)”. Rachel, who is active duty and will be moving to Alaska in a few days, has come a long way in a short amount of time. She and Bear worked extremely hard and are now a confident working team. The love and partnership between the two of them is both beautiful and inspiring to watch. Congratulations again and thank you for all you do in our Armed Forces!”
From our trainer, Cherry, who is working with Wounded Warrior, Cody, and his SDIT, Mastiff/Labrador mix, “Zeus”. Cody suffers from PTSD and multiple TBIs. Zeus was adopted from Cherry’s rescue, In Dog We Trust.
“It was super special to train with Cody, who adopted amazing Zeus. Zeus knew me when we first saw each other after Cody had bonded with him for a while, and wagged his tail, but wasn’t over excited. This gave me mixed feelings because on the one hand, I feel sad that the dog I rescued and worked so hard with really wasn’t that bothered to see me again, but on the other hand, it’s so nice to know that the bond is so strong with the new owner that the dog has “moved on”. It was clear to see that strong bond with Zeus and his owner, Cody, and far more important.
Our session was about heeling. which Zeus did perfectly, and as one can see by the photo, performs beautiful covers by leaning right in to Cody’s legs. Zeus’ “sit” and “down” were perfect – so Cody has been doing his homework! The next thing to teach Zeus is “stay”. He does a good stay in the sit position, but his down/stay needs work.
We walked past busy aisles, crowds and noisy children and Zeus just ignored them all – keeping a steady pace next to Cody. At one point during the session, a man walked up to us and reached out his hand to Cody to thank him for his service. Cody smiled and shook his hand, as we walked away he said to me quietly, “I wish people wouldn’t do that. It triggers my anxiety.”
This is an excellent point that Cody raised. We all want to thank our brave men and women, but they have a Service Dog for a reason. In many cases, that reason is PTSD, and a simple gesture like suddenly coming up to the Wounded Warrior can trigger it. My advice to anyone wanting to thank the men and women, is to nod and smile first; the client’s body language will let you know if they welcome an approach. If the client does, the person approaching must step forward slowly; a sudden appearance of a person with an outstretched hand can startle some.
I left Cody with some homework to practice the Down and Stay and asked him if I could pet Zeus; I couldn’t resist a snuggle on his gorgeous face! :)”
CONGRATULATIONS TO WOUNDED WARRIOR, ETHAN, AND HIS NOW SERVICE DOG, “SHAE’MUS”!!!!!
Ethan suffered from severe PTSD, anxiety, and TBI while on active duty. Trainer Terry in El Paso, who has been doing amazing training with Ethan and Shae’mus, wrote the following:
“Today, Ethan and Shae’mus performed like pros today during their Public Access Test! They completed all 14 test areas with style, grace, attention to detail, and clear and concise work with purpose and meaning. Their mall presentation absolutely impeccable! You can clearly tell that they both have put a lot of time, work, and effort into training so they could successful past their Public Access Test. Congratulations goes out to Ethan, Shae’mus and the Ethan’s entire family! They have been an absolute joy to work with!!”
I had two sessions with Dale, who is a Wounded Warrior from the Vietnam Era, and Dale’s son, Sean, who just retired from active duty after 20 years. They both have dogs that they would like to be trained as Service Dogs. This was very interesting – and challenging – training two clients at once! But it was beautiful, because Sean is so tuned in to his father’s needs that he helps with the training.
Dale suffers from PTSD, two TBIs with neck and shoulder damage, bulged cervical discs, low back disc damage with radicular pain through his right leg from the back to his foot. He also suffers from chronic migraines and many other TBI symptoms, including memory loss. He recently moved from his hometown in Oregon to be with his son due to his condition. His SDIT is a rescue named “Piper”. He would like Piper to help with retrieving items off the floor, mobility, balance, stability when a migraine hits, and PTSD including bereavement after recently losing his wife of many years. Unfortunately, Piper, whom Dale chose from the shelter, is not large enough to help a lot with mobility – but we will do the best we can.
Dale’s son, Sean, suffers from PTSD and TBI. His SDIT is an absolutely gorgeous German Shepherd name “Calvin”. Calvin already knows many commands, so when we had our second session at PetSmart, we focused more on Dale and Piper. I suggested that Dale use a shopping cart to balance when walking with Piper instead of using his cane. This seemed to help him. Piper knows some commands, such as “sit”, “down”, “stay”, and is learning to heel and “leave it”. Piper is an extremely curious dog, so focusing on the “leave it” part will be essential.
Sean and Calvin did a wonderful job. Calvin was not heeling well on a regular collar, so we switched to a different collar and very soon, Calvin was heeling perfectly! Calvin knows several commands, such as “sit”, “down”, “stay”, “leave it”, and makes wonderful eye contact with Sean. We did several meet and greets, and Piper was excited and friendly, so we must work on his ability to stay still. Calvin is a very, very calm German Shepherd who doesn’t get rattled or excited easily. In fact, he likes to do a few commands then just lay down on the floor and rest!
Our next session will be at a Walmart. I want Piper to get used to Dale in a motorized wheelchair. We will continue to work on Calvin’s commands at Walmart as well.
We owe so much gratitude to this family who for generations has dedicated their lives to serving our country!
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.
“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!
From our trainer Terry, in El Paso, who did an initial assessment on new client Wounded Warrior Ethan, and his SDIT, “Shae’mus”. Ethan suffers from severe PTSD, anxiety, and a TBI. Ethan’s wife wrote that since Ethan has been home, Shae’mus already seems to know there is something wrong, and helps my husband when he is sleeping if he’s having nightmares by coming and lying half his body on my Ethan. If they are out in public, Ethan has severe anxiety. Terry writes:
“I performed an assessment on 4 year-old Mastiff mix, Shae’mus for trainability and temperament. Shae’mus passed the assessment perfectly. Shae’mus has some knowledge of basic obedience commands, and executed them to a good degree of accuracy. From observation, I could detect a very strong bond between owner Ethan and Shae’mus, and the dog’s willingness to assist and please the owner. Shae’mus is a fairly large dog, and the living arrangement with another dog in a house was good, as it provided a large backyard for exercising. In addition, the owners take Shae’mus out for walks to allow him some other means to relax and exercise. Shae’mus is excellent with the children inside the home, as well as with the other dog in the family. I checked Shae’mus for any skin discoloration, scars, protruding bones, teeth decay, and any other sign that might indicate a pending health risk; there was none found. However, I did note that the Shae’mus has a slight limp, and the owners have agreed to take the dog to the vet for further observation. I would highly recommend Ethan and his dog Shae’mus for training in the Service Dog Express Program.
From our trainer, Terry, in El Paso, who is working with Wounded Warrior Rudy, and his SDIT, Jenny.
“Good day to all,
Another good training session with Rudy and SDIT, Jenny. This time, we went to one of our largest shopping centers “Cielo Vista Mall”. Here, we practiced entering and exiting the elevator, avoiding noise distractions, socializing with other people as well as children, and last – food distraction! In all tests, Rudy and Jenny did very well with no problems. If you train hard, you should enjoy the fruits of your labor, so we engaged ourselves with our spouses in a little socializing as well! Shortly, Rudy and Jenny will be taking their Public Access Test! Well done, team!”