Category Archives: TBI

Wounded Warrior Rudy and SDiT Jenny

From our super trainer, Terry, who is in El Paso, and is working with Rudy, who is a Wounded Warrior suffering from PTSD, TBI, Depression, hyper-vigilance, sleep apnea, and nightmares, and his SDIT, “Jenny”.

Terry writes:

“We had a great outing and exposure to the mall, and all of its many distractions! Rudy and Jenny did exceptionally well on their first outing in the mall. We practiced and mastered the proper procedures of entering and exiting the mall, as it has double doors, and requires some skill level to get in and out successfully. We visited a couple of stores; some crowed with people, some crowed with merchandise, some empty with people, merchandise, and some with confined space for maneuvering. Rudy and Jenny performed exceptionally well in all situations presented!! We also made use of the elevator, and again, both parties performed so well! What a wonderful outing!”



Donny is an amazingly dedicated, confident dog handler who suffers from PTSD and TBI. He has done so much work with Max on his own, based upon his years of training his own personal dogs. From the first time I met them, I was already blown away by how much work he had done with Max. Donny followed all the training steps in the manual, and added his own training, which just enhanced Max’s already incredible abilities.

We took the Public Access Test at my favorite place to do them – the Bass Pro Shop. By now, I know just about every worker in the store – and they always greet each dog and handler with such compassion and kindness. They know to ask before petting, and all of them willingly participate in parts of the Public Access Test that require interactions with strangers.

We started from “unload”, then went to “controlled entry” (Max wasn’t even fazed by the rolling bars that let you in). We went all over the store, as I followed behind and let Donny know each command I had to see them do. Max scored an “Always” on every single part of the test. He adores children, and was gentle with each one that wanted to greet him as he stayed in a “sit” position. He was the same with male and female adults. I always add in some “extras” to the test, like showing Donny proper elevator entrance and exit with a Service Dog (Max loved the glass windows where he could see all the fish). We did fast heeling and slow heeling around corners and clothes racks, and when we did the “drop leash” command, Max stayed in a perfect heel far beyond what he was required to do! Donny and Max spend all their time together, so there is no doubt about how strong their bond is. Max loved the fish pond, and it was hilarious to see how he constantly cocked his head from side to side while watching the catfish swimming around! He didn’t attempt to jump in the pond, but I bet he would have loved to!

There were SO many people, including workers, who came up to us to express how beautiful Max was – and because he was so well-behaved, they asked for pointers for their own dogs! If the conversation went on a little bit too long, Max just laid down and rested. Max was SO intrigued by all the stuffed wild game they have there – Donny lives in an area where there are always deer in the front yard and even a small fox that visits – so Max would go right up to the huge stuffed deer and elk, sniff them, then look at Donny as if he was saying, “I don’t get it, dad – this LOOKS like a real animal, but it sure doesn’t smell like one!” Max’s face is so full of expression like that. Max didn’t really like the stuffed monkeys, because they are a bit scary looking, so when we went up to them, he did a back “cover” behind Donny as if he was saying “OK, that really freaks me out dad!”

We practiced slow walking on many of the different stair surfaces they have – “step, wait, step, wait”, and Max was perfect on each surface. He could sit/stay and down/stay with ease for as long as Donny wanted him to. Max was not fazed by shopping cars, people in motorized wheelchairs, crying babies (Max actually seems to really want to gravitate toward them as if to comfort them. There was even someone in the store with a very hyper puppy – and both the handler and Donny were hesitant to get them close – but I knew Max’s personality and told them to just relax and let the two dogs try and do a proper meet and greet – and they did! Max was gentle, and the little puppy quickly calmed down and they did the perfect “sniffing” pattern and became fast friends.

I am so, so very proud of this team. Donny said that Max always knows when Donny is having a difficult day, and comes to him instantly to give him comfort. Max’s recall is also profoundly good.

Well done, Donny and Max!!!!

P.S. – Check out Donny’s new Camaro!! A young couple visiting from Italy even came up to Donny and said, “How much for that Camaro? We’ll pay cash right now!” We all laughed and Max stuck his head out and said “No way, people – this is MY fancy car!”

Wounded Warrior Donny and SDiT Max

Laurie had a super session with Wounded Warrior, Donny, and his SDIT, Max!!! Max is the most amazing Sharpei mix you could imagine, initially rescued by Cherry Jenkins of In Dog We Trust. Donny suffers from a TBI and PTSD, but takes Max everywhere with him – they have such a strong bond that if Donny even goes outside for 10 minutes to work, Max will just watch him out the window and whine a little bit until he is reunited with Donny!

Laurie writes:

Our first session was at Donny’s home, and Max was already well-trained by Donny using the training manual. This time, we met at Petsmart in New Braunfels, and went through several different commands. Max was perfect, and Donny was so at ease with him! Max is always watching Donny and they have a beautiful bond. We did several meet and greets with adults and children while Max stayed in a perfect sit, met other dogs with whom Max got along easily, and even tied him to the shopping cart with no problems! Max heels beautifully. He always comes when called. We practiced sit/stays, down/stays, and squeezed all kinds of squeaky toys to see which frequencies really got Max’s head to perk up! It was so much fun! Max was not distracted by anything or anyone around him. Donny has done such a wonderful job training beautiful Max. Max received so many compliments from both staff and customers about how well-behaved he was! Donny always gives him lots of praise and love – and they snuggle up together at home and Max sleeps right next to Donny. Next trip – Walmart at a very busy time!!!!!!

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.


Joshua and SDiT Olaf

From our wonderful trainer, Kendra, in Houston, who is working with Joshua and his SDIT, Olaf! Joshua suffers with PTSD and TBI. Kendra writes:

“Joshua had two meet and greets with Olaf at Olaf’s rescue and at Joshua’s home to let the their other dog meet Olaf. It went awesome!

Olaf was attached to Joshua immediately; he stayed next to him for most of the sessions! While we were talking, Olaf just sat on Joshua’s feet and stayed there while we spoke. Joshua tried out the commands that Olaf knows, which are “sit” and “down”. It was raining and cold, so Olaf was reluctant to lay down on the cold wet concrete, but he did! And he sits beautifully for Joshua. Olaf takes treats very gently, and was just so focused on Joshua. Olaf kept looking up to check on my him, and and I noticed Olaf nuzzled Joshua’s hand a couple of times while we were all talking to get his attention. They played a little bit, and Joshua took Olaf on a short walk to test his leash skills. The only one habit we will have to break that Olaf is so bonded that he walks leaning into you, and some times it can trip you. So we will train him to walk touching Joshua’s leg, but not pushing into the leg. Olaf also loves to sit in between Joshua’s legs, and Joshua didn’t seem to mind at all. The bond was strong! I just know you will see it in these pictures. These pictures are worth more than anything I could say!”


Update from Ryan and Carl

An update from Wounded Warrior, Ryan, who was matched with SDIT, Carl! They went on a 3 day trip to a convention, and are staying at a nice hotel. Lots of time for bonding! We will do our first session in public at Bass Pro Shop when Ryan gets back. It’s a great place to expose Service Dogs to all kinds of distractions, especially the glass elevator. Ryan wrote:

“Carl loves the hotel! He just doesn’t like the elevator very much – but he is doing great so far! I hugged Carl on the elevator and reassured him that it was OK”.

I can’t wait to hear how the convention went – huge crowds for a Wounded Warrior with PTSD and TBI and a new SDIT – overwhelming, but hopefully having Carl there should help Ryan refocus and be more calm.

Wounded Warrior James and Sadie

From Wounded Warrior James, who is still active duty but suffers from PTSD and TBI – he was paired with Sadie! James writes:

Hi Laurie!

Sadie is such an awesome dog and companion! I take her with me everywhere and she relieves a lot of stress for me! She is doing great and plays all day with Colby when I get home! She is soooooo funny! Whenever I try to go to bed she beats me there and jumps into my spot and just looks at me like “where are you gonna sleep???”


Ryan and beautiful “Carl”

What a WONDERFUL meet and greet and adoption with Wounded Warrior, Ryan, and beautiful “Carl”, who has been so lovingly fostered for quite some time by Sandra. Sandra has been working with Carl on fine-tuning his commands (she can bring him to work because she works at Petco headquarters).

I first met Carl a few months ago – and could NOT believe this is the same dog! Carl was wonderful then, but when we all drove out to meet Carl’s new dad, Ryan, I was literally astounded at how much Carl had learned!! He could almost pass his Public Access Test now, he knew every command so well thanks to Sandra’s amazing training!

Ryan and Carl instantly fell in love! Ryan, a big, strong, tall man who suffers from PTSD and TBI had EVERYTHING ready for Carl – bought the perfect leash, vest, collar, tags, patches, and had read the manual through and through as was clearly evident as we went through basic commands and he caught on so quickly!! Ryan will be a perfect “battle buddy” for Ryan – one game Carl just loves is tug of war – and being a pit, Carl is strong! But Ryan is even stronger!! Ryan was smiling ear to ear after playing and getting to know Carl, giving Carl tons of love and pets. Carl took to Ryan right away.

Ryan manages a very large warehouse and has his own office, so Carl will be able to run around the warehouse or sit in the comfortable little nook Ryan already created for Carl. Ryan has a very strong knowledge of dogs, and it was evident by how quickly he was able to learn and mimic the commands I showed him – no evidence of TBI there!! They walked outside alone together, and Carl heeled perfectly.

Ryan gave a beautiful donation to Sandra for all her hard work – something he didn’t have to do – but he was so appreciative. Ryan is so much fun to talk to – he’s got a wonderful sense of humor and can’t wait to play with Carl and wrestle around – but only after the work day is done! Ryan also read the training manual so thoroughly, and with three children, he clearly grasped the concept of Carl being HIS dog – but 25% of the time, he can just be a family dog.

Ryan has a convention to drive to for three days, and there will be hundreds of people there – something that would ordinarily be overwhelming for Ryan. He now feels so much better knowing Carl will be by his side – and I explained that he needs to focus on Carl if his anxiety starts building too much. Ryan even called the Hyatt ahead of time to let them know Carl will be staying there overnight with him, and they welcomed Carl with open arms! This three days together will be a perfect bonding time for the two of them!

We will start formal training when Ryan returns!



The meet and greet with Wounded Warrior, James, and Sadie, the fully-trained Service Dog generously donated by her former owner, Kendra, in New Jersey, couldn’t have gone any better! There was an absolutely instant bond between James and Sadie. James was at home with his wife, Gina, and their son. They were so impressed with Sadie’s beauty, and I showed them a bunch of commands that Sadie knew, then had James repeat them. Sadie was perfect! She even loved playing with their puppy, “Colby”, and Sadie wasn’t fazed by their three cats. James was SO happy! Much thanks to Jill, who fostered and worked with Sadie to get over her separation anxiety from Kendra, and took Sadie all over – even to the rodeo – where Sadie just sat there cool as can be! The whole family was overcome with joy at this gift for James, who is just now seeking treatment for his TBI resulting from 25 years in the military (he is still active duty) and his over a dozen major concussions. We wrote down all commands so that he always has something to refer to, went over feeding and potty schedules, brought some extra bags of Sadie’s hypoallergenic food, toys, bed, etc. We took a walk outside with Sadie, and she heeled wonderfully with James. He couldn’t be happier! I think his favorite (well, certainly my favorite) command is “Sadie – LOVE” – where Sadie would go up to James and put her paws on him, wrap her arms around his neck, and slather his face with kisses!

James has already taken Sadie to work at San Antonio Military Medical Center, where everyone has fallen in love with her. He said his anxiety levels are already so decreased with Sadie by his side! And, since he works on one of the floors as a case manager, he will be able to share that love with all his patients!

Kendra, Sadie’s former owner, and her mother, Lori, who flew Sadie in from New Jersey, are so happy that we found just the perfect person for Sadie. I have no doubt Sadie will continue to have the very best life possible – a huge backyard to run and play in, and a loving, supportive family that will do anything for her. Since Kendra had a TBI and anxiety, Sadie’s knowledge of when symptoms start to come on will easily transfer over.

James and I will continue training together out in public until they are comfortable – but it won’t take long! The first night, when it was time for bed, Sadie was already cuddled up in James’ sleeping spot! That’s something his wonderful wife, Gina, will have to adapt to!! I have no doubt that Sadie will alert to James’ almost nightly night terrors, and will take wonderful care of him – she was already doing covers from the front and back by the time we left about 3 hours later.



Kendra’s selfless act

Here are some bittersweet pictures of the day Kendra, our client from New Jersey, and her mother flew in with TBI and PTSD trained Service Dog Sadie, so that they could hand her off to a client that needed her more than Kendra now that she is recovering. It was a very, very difficult day for Kendra and her dear, loving mother – but they knew in their hearts that there was someone out there who could fully utilize Sadie’s amazing skills. Sadie is staying with the most wonderful foster – Jill – and will be meeting her hopefully new “dad” with PTSD and TBI, Wounded Warrior James, this coming week!!

Kendra and her mother arrived back home in New Jersey, and they have definitely felt the absence of this amazing Service Dog that they have had for almost her entire life. But both Kendra and her mother are so strong – they fight back their tears with the reminder that Sadie will continue to help someone else and retain the amazing, loving spirit that only Kendra could have instilled in Sadie.

Here are some pictures of the last day they had together. Of course, they will always have visitation rights!!!!