Category Archives: Austin

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.

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.”

SDiT Buddy

Our Austin trainer, Emmett, had his first session with a local family and their son. The son suffers from autism and mobility issues. Their SDIT is a Labrador Retriever named “Buddy”.

Emmett writes:

“I met with the family and their SDiT prospect, Buddy. Buddy passed the temperament and trainability test with flying colors! He is a 10 month-old lab that they purchased from a breeder some time ago and since then, he and their son have become bonded. Buddy allowed me to touch him all over his body and inside his mouth. He accepted treats from my hand. He has no history of aggression toward people or other animals. Buddy is able to “sit” on command. He is also up to date on all vaccines and is on monthly heart/flea/tick/etc. preventative. He makes decent eye contact but, being a puppy, his attention wanders – so that will need to be worked on.

No tasks were worked on at this session. We brainstormed as a team what tasks would be beneficial for their son. The family would like Buddy to be trained to help the son when he becomes upset (the child has significant cognitive disabilities). Deep Pressure Therapy and tactile stimulation are the tasks we have decided on for this.

As the child matures, they would like the team to be trained for bracing and counterbalance, as their son goes through periods of time where his stability is impaired. They are aware that Buddy cannot begin heavy mobility training until his joints and bones finish growing. He will start “light mobility” (being trained to retrieve objects their son drops or needs) in the meantime.
Buddy is very, very friendly, but his focus needs to be worked on. I believe this will be Buddy’s biggest hurdle while training. He is very curious about the world, but also very well-rounded. I see him doing good things for their son soon!

The family will continue to work on “sit” with Buddy. They will also work on “down”, “off” and “watch me” until they come back from their family vacation.”

Kindle and SDiT Bella

From our trainer, Jackie, who is working with client Kindle and her Service Dog in Training, Bella.

Kindle and Bella the Lab Mix had their first training session today. Bella is training to be Kindle’s Service Dog for anxiety and depression. Bella is newly adopted and still adjusting to her new home. Kindle and Bella worked on heeling with distractions. Bella performed this task very well. They also worked on “leave it”, where Bella is trained to ignore whatever it is that she is interested in or to stop doing whatever she is doing. Bella is very treat motivated, so it took her a brief bit to get the hang of this; however she is also very smart. Bella and Kindle worked on trying to keep Bella’s sit for a longer period of time. Bella and Shogun the Mastiff Service Dog (see the earlier post from today) live in the same home. Bella had to go out in public and sit for dinner with the distraction of her playmate while both dogs were working. Both Bella and Shogun did great!

Wounded Warrior Rick and SDiT Shogun

From our trainer, Jackie, who is working with Wounded Warrior, Rick, and his SDIT, “Shogun”.

“Rick and Shogun the Mastiff had their first training session today. Veteran Rick has PTSD, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s Disease. He is training Shogun to be his PTSD and Mobility Service Dog. Shogun already has a substantial amount of basic training. Today, Shogun began learning “switch” where when walking, he transfers from one side of Rick to the other side during a heel. Normally. a Service Dog would be heeling on one side, generally the left to allow the right hand free for shaking hands, etc. However, with Rick, he has weakness on both sides and it is uncertain which side will be more prone to giving out on any particular day, so Shogun must know how to heel on both sides of Rick’s body. Shogun also practiced loading and unloading via ramp into the truck. He then participated in his second public outing at Cracker Barrel, where he had to remain in a down position despite being nose-to-nose with my Service Dog, Diesel, and despite the busy Sunday crowd, children approaching, and food. Shogun did very well!

Update from Emmett and SD Daphne

From our dear client, Emmett, with his Service Dog, Daphne. Emmett suffers from PTSD and anxiety-induced seizures.

Hi Laurie. These pictures happened just after I had a seizure. She licked my face during the seizure but it was how upset she looked afterwards that made my heart hurt and feel love at the same time.

These past weeks have been extremely hard. I don’t think I would have coped half as well if Daphne hadn’t been part of it. She’s my best friend. She follows me to the bathroom and sits outside the door just to make sure I come out okay. She curls up at my feet when I study even when she is off leash at home.

I was in class the other day and I had a really severe bout of panic. She got up from her laying position and sat on my feet, ready for me to put my arm under her chest and tuck myself around her. She’s the best medicine.



Chris and SDiT Harley

From our wonderful trainer, Andrew, who is working with Chris, who needs a medical alert dog for her chronic pain and other health issues, and her SDIT, “Harley”.

“During this session, I evaluated Harley for the Public Access Test, as Chris told me when we spoke on the phone that Harley already knew all the commands in the manual. It turned out that Harley was in fact already ready for the test, so we made an appointment for the following Tuesday. The only thing that Harley needed to work on was a bit more focus and being able to listen to Chris when excited. This we went over during the rest of our session.

The Public Access Test went very well – both Chris and Harley passed with flying colors. I followed the Assistance Dog International checklist for all the commands, and they performed each one flawlessly. They are a great team, and I am very proud of them for having all the ground work laid out for Harley to become a fully-fledged Service Dog!

Update from beloved client, Emmett

A meaningful, short update from beloved client, Emmett, who suffers from severe PTSD and anxiety. He and his Service Dog, Daphne, have a bond that is truly unbelievable.

“Hey Laurie, just wanted to send you an update. Going to work and class has been difficult lately. I’ve been having some neurological issues and small seizures. Daphne hasn’t left my side though. Normally, she will get up and lay elsewhere when she gets hot, but after I seize up she lays with me until I want to move around again. She’s been a big support.”

Letter from Emmett and Daphne

A beautiful note written by one of our amazing clients, Emmett. We are SO proud of you, Emmett and Daphne!!!

My name is Emmett Luka and I have struggled with PTSD for the past 5 years. Currently I am a double major at a very competitive liberal arts university and my goal is to teach Spanish at the high school level. The past semester in particular was incredibly emotionally and psychologically taxing. At one point, I did not leave my room for 5 days due to the overwhelming anxiety and paranoia. I knew something had to change.

In November 2014 I was given the information for an agency called Service Dog Express. After speaking with the CEO and founder, Laurie Gawelko, I was able to arrange a meet and greet with one of the assessed dogs that was being fostered by Cherry Jenkins, with In Dogs We Trust. Meeting Daphne was one of the best moments of my life. I knew instantly that she was the partner I wanted and needed.

Over the past few months, Daphne and I have done extensive training. Some of it with trainers through the agency but a good majority of it on our own.

At first, Daphne had a few triggers of her own such as motorized sounds, small spaces, and large rod like objects. Now, Daphne can walk past the patrol buggies that roll around my university. She will willingly go into the Men’s restroom and stall with me, and does not shy away as much if someone has a broom or assistance cane.

She really is the best medicine. On the days that I cannot find my way around or home, she guides me there and sits with me until the feeling of disorientation has subsided.

She is very attuned to me and the reactions I have to triggers. Just the other day I was working a night shift and suddenly became very distressed. Daphne immediately hopped up next to me, set her head gently in my hands and did not move a muscle until I was calmed. That type of behavior is not one she was trained to do, it is simply her knowing me on an incredibly deep level and willingly offering the best she has.

Words cannot express how proud I am of her for all that she has accomplished. Nor can they express how thankful I am for all that she does for me. I am proud to be her handler and I am extremely honored that I was paired with such an exceptional partner.

People always say, we are the ones who rescue dogs from shelters, but I think they are the ones to rescue us.

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