Category Archives: TBI

Wounded Warrior Brian and SDIT Cassie

An update from trainer Beverly, who is working with Wounded Warrior Brian and his SDIT, Cassie!

” Part 1: Since Brian and his wife are staying at the Fisher House on base to treat his medical issues, we met at the park near SAMMC to work on basic skills. Brian had been spending a lot of time with Cassie for bonding purposes, and they have become very close! Cassie is doing well with “sit”, “down”, and “heel”. We practiced “watch me” and, while she knew what she needed to do, distractions (squirrels and the occasional runner) interrupted her focus a little more than usual. Brian and Cassie will continue to bond and work on these basic skills, especially “leave it” and “watch me”.

Part 2: We tried introducing Cassie properly to another SDIT, who also needs a bit of work on socialization skills, but they’re both young and fed off each other’s energy too much; so we will try introductions with an older, more “seasoned” dog to reassure both dogs and build their confidence, while also teaching Cassie to reign in some of her excitement. We will also be trying the Adaptil DAP collar for calming.

Brian will continue to work on Cassie’s basics and building their bond through more touch and vocal reassurance. Next session, we will work more on “down” and “stay.”

New Client, Wounded Warrior, Joseph

I had the honor of meeting a new client, Wounded Warrior, Joseph! Joseph served in the Air Force for 5 years, and is still active duty – but will be getting out very soon due to his disabilities. Our first training session lasted 6 hours – but for wonderful reasons!! Joseph is as kind, polite, and humble as one could imagine. He had three terrible deployments in his 5 years, and finally acknowledged, after suppressing his ever-increasing PTSD, that he had to get out of the military to literally save his life. He entered a wonderful inpatient program at Laurel Ridge for Wounded Warriors with PTSD and TBI, completed that, and is now in their outpatient program. At Laurel Ridge, Joseph met a former client of ours, Jason, with his SD, Sassy, and Jason told Joseph how much having a Service Dog had enhanced his life. Right then, Joseph decided he wanted a Service Dog to help with his daily life of isolation and fear of going out into the public.

I talked extensively with Joseph, and he had seen the write-up about SDIT, Viva, who was rescued and being trained by Cherry Jenkins and our non-profit arm, In Dog We Trust. So, I hopped in my car and Joseph hopped in his, and off we went to meet Viva, about 45 minutes away. I explained to Joseph that when he met Viva, he would know within about 15 minutes if there was a bond between them. BOY, WAS THERE EVER!!!!! Cherry did a wonderful job training Viva the basics, and Joseph and I did training on such things as heeling, sit, down, snuggle, and stay. Joseph and Viva were so happy together. Seeing Joseph smile and show joy and a reprieve from his negative thoughts by hugging, holding, and petting Viva for a long time was so moving to see, it brought Cherry and I to tears. Joseph was completely focused on Viva, and it was a total transformation in his demeanor.

Joseph adopted Viva, and then I said to Joseph – “You know, now we have to go to Petsmart to get all of Viva’s needed items”. Joseph quickly realized that this would be the first time he had gone into any public place for an extended period of time. When we got to Petsmart, I asked Joseph, who was already anxious, if he wanted me to go in and get the items, or if he wanted to try to go in to this crowded place. He took a deep breath, and said he wanted to try!

So many people asked about Viva and approached Joseph asking to pet Viva – and instead of ignoring them, Joseph did it!!! We then went into the store, and actually spent about 45 minutes getting all supplies needed for a new dog! I could tell that Joseph was struggling with the whole situation by his body posture, sweating, and face turning red – BUT HE DID IT!!!! Just the day before, his counselor had asked Joseph to TRY to enter a Wal-Mart for a few minutes, but he stood outside and couldn’t do it. I noticed Joseph bending down to hug and scratch Viva very often at Petsmart – exactly what he needed to do to ease his anxiety – and Viva gave him that comfort.

When we walked out of Petsmart, we stood there while Joseph took several deep breaths, and I asked him, “Do you realize what an amazing accomplishment you just made? You stayed in the store despite your feelings like you just wanted to run out. You spoke to people who approached you – and you used Viva to help you stay and refocus away from the crowds.” He acknowledged what a triumph he had just made. He admitted he wanted to run about 10 minutes before we left, but he stayed.

I could not have been prouder of him, and I reminded him of what a huge step in his recovery he had just made. He couldn’t wait to let his counselor know the next day that he had done this!!!! He said that focusing on Viva and knowing I also had his back made it possible for him. I think he knew that his life was now changed and his ability to become a person that could do “normal” things in the future was becoming a reality.

Since that first session, he has slept with Viva every night – and although Joseph has nightly night terrors, he would watch Viva sleep and when SHE seemed to be having nightmares in her sleep, he would gently wake her and let her know she was safe. Here he was, used to consistently plagued by a lack of sleep due to his PTSD, helping his new battle buddy.

Joseph brought Viva to outpatient therapy for the entire next day. The next thing I knew, there were several patients on the Laurel Ridge campus, all Wounded Warriors who saw Viva, asking me how they could get Service Dogs. So, since Saturday is “visitors” day, next Saturday, Cherry, her husband Gregg, myself, and my husband are going to bring down a “caravan” of ALL the dogs in In Dog We Trust’s care to Laurel Ridge to make more matches!!


Congressional Inquiry to the VA for SD costs

OK! THIS IS SERIOUS!!! What I need from as many Texas wounded warriors as possible is an email or documentation regarding any physicians, counselors, psychiatrist, etc., who have “recommended” that each of you would benefit from a Service Dog. Congressman Pete Gallego’s office is taking on this matter of the VA saying veterans can benefit from Service Dogs, but the VA refuses to pay for it. PLEASE take the time to send me the information so we can get this changed – even if you already have been through the training process, you deserve reimbursement. My direct email is [email protected]. If you are in the middle of the training process or about to begin, you deserve reimbursement. But I NEED YOUR HELP to make this work. Here is the latest email and phone call I received from Gallego’s office. Of course, I will be filling out the privacy release form for myself to go ahead with these inquiries today. This currently applies to Wounded Warriors living in Texas.


I have attached a privacy release form for you to fill out yourself. I am going to send an inquiry to the VA as to why they do not pay for the dogs that they are prescribing to Veterans. On the second page of the form make sure you write in detail who it is that writes the prescriptions as well as who makes the decision that the Vet needs a service dog. If we can get the VA to pay for the dogs, it would really help these guys out and it would probably streamline the process and standardize it as well. If you have any questions at all please do not hesitate to call me. On a personal note, as a Veteran I wanted to thank you for making this your life’s work!

Kind regards,

Joseph Van Kuiken
Office of Congressman Pete P. Gallego (TX 23)”

Welcome to new client, Wounded Warrior Mark

A warm welcome to new client, Wounded Warrior Mark, who is staying at Liberty Barracks at Ft. Sam Houston as he receives treatment for PTSD and TBI. Unfortunately, because of the rules at Ft. Sam, Mark’s SDIT, boxer “Jace” cannot stay with him in the barracks. So Cherry Jenkins will be boarding and training Jace while Mark receives treatment – he will certainly have “visiting rights” on weekends! And, he will be able to eventually train on weekend with Cherry in public once Jace has all the Public Access Commands down. SO sad that SDIT’s can’t stay in barracks if it’s transitional housing for those receiving medical treatment before they are released. In 2011, General Wong, the Commander of Brooke Army Medical Center issued a statement that they were allowed after a lot of hard work done by a lot of people, including myself. Well, General Wong left, and now it’s back to square one. But we won’t stop the fight!