Category Archives: Veteran

Robin’s Training Experience

After an intensive week of many, many hours a day training here in San Antonio after she and Smokey flew in from Philadelphia, combined with her own self-training (she had a previous Service Dog who just passed away), the team passed the Public Access Test!!!

Smokey is a rescued, 3 year-old black Labrador/Shepherd mix.  Robin suffers from complex PTSD and mobility and balance issues.  Robin spent two years in the Israeli Army, and then went on to become a Physician’s Assistant.  Robin’s trainers were Beverli and Laurie .

Laurie was absolutely delighted to see the transformation in both Smokey and Robin’s disposition from the time they arrived until the day they left.  They came as a unit that knew most every “command”, but by the end of the week of training, their bond had increased dramatically and the team dynamic was outstanding!!!!

Please watch this 15 minute video of Robin talking about her experience:

Capone’s Success Story

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

Wounded Warrior Amber and SDIT Holiday

From our trainer, Beverli, who had her second session with Wounded Warrior, Amber, and her SDIT, hound mix,“Holiday”. Amber suffers from Bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and back problems.

Beverli writes:

“Today we began Holiday’s introduction to the Public Access Test rules and skills at Petsmart. We worked on “heel”, “leave it” when Holiday got distracted by smells or other people, and a calm, controlled “entry” into and out of different stores. We also worked on “sit-stay” and “down-stay”.

I brought my own Service Dog, Luke, to test Holiday’s distraction with other dogs. Holiday was focused on Amber, regardless of Luke’s location and proximity to him.

Amber and Holiday’s bond has grown since our last session. He responds quickly to basic “sit” and “down” responses, and this shows Amber’s diligence in working with him.

Holiday’s overall comfort and ease in public locations needs improvement. He needs work with socializing and experiencing many new places.

Homework for next session is to work on “touch” in public, and to work on Amber’s handling of Holiday in public in a calm manner.

Wounded Warrior Krisia and her SDIT, Corgi “Bear”

From our trainer, Emmett, who had his fourth session with Wounded Warrior Krisia and her SDIT, Corgi “Bear”! Krisia suffers from severe anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and fibromyalgia.

Emmett writes:

“Today, at Target, we worked on reinforcing Bear’s” sit/stay” and “down/stay”, as well as introducing Bear to blocking Krisia with “covers”. Krisia can become very anxious or pained (fibromyalgia) if strangers get too close to her. We are working on having Bear block (cover) on command in front of Krisia as well as behind her.

We also worked on having Bear heel through tight quarters, as well as having him do controlled meet and greets by several strangers. We also had two different willing strangers hold Bear’s leash while Krisia walked off in preparation for the Public Access Test.

Since our last session, Bear has improved tremendously!! He used to be a bit distracted in new environments, and would slide into a “down” when asked to sit and stay. He now (80% of the time) will stay in an upright, seated position when asked for a “sit/stay” which is HUGE progress. He also accepts treats much more politely now that Krisia has been working with him on that.

So far Krisia and Bear are doing wonderfully! They will be working on Bear’s “cover” while Krisia is visiting family in Puerto Rico.

Wounded Warrior Marsha and Charlie

From our trainer Terry, in El Paso, who had his third training session Wounded Warrior Marsha and her SDIT, German Shepherd “Charlie”! Marsha suffers from PTSD, fibromyalgia, and mobility issues.

Terry writes:

“Today’s session was Marsha and Charlie’s first exposure to the shopping mall. It was exciting and interesting to see both Marsha & Charlie’s reaction to the people and movement within a congested mall setting!! Both parties did well on their first outing. As expected, Marsha and Charlie were a little anxious at the beginning. But after a lot of walking, talking, shopping, and exposure to different settings within numerous stores, they both calmed down and took things in stride. We also made a quick pass through the food court! Charlie was curious for sure, but was not overly distracted! Good job!

Marsha has had a number of back surgeries, which greatly hinder her mobility and motor skills. She performed marvelously through this exercise. What a trooper!

Wounded Warrior, Thomas and his SDIT, Samanatha

From our wonderful trainer, Cherry, who met with Wounded Warrior, Thomas and his SDIT, Samanatha. Thomas suffers from Migraines, syncope, seizures, PTSD, anxiety, and severe depression.

Cherry writes:

“This story may touch your heart. I had a wonderful assessment with Thomas and his SDIT Samantha. Thomas and his family chose sweet Samantha from the pound with the intent of her being a Service Dog for him. She was super cute, so they adopted her and took her home. Not long afterward, they discovered sweet Samantha is DEAF! Not wanting to give up on their sweet baby like some do, Thomas decided he would teach her sign language; and so far she has learned Sit and Come by sign alone!!

Samantha heeled well in PetSmart, ignoring most distractions – even the cats! She has an amazing bond with Thomas, so I know this team will do well!

Thomas’ homework was to continue having Samantha heel, performing “watch me”, and practicing “cover”. He will also keep on practicing the sits and stays.

I am going away to visit my family in Europe for a few weeks, but Thomas has great support from trainer Letty, who will be there if he needs her. Letty is proficient in sign language, and has her own deaf Service Dog. Thomas was super excited to start training. What a wonderful person to want to continue working with Samantha even after he discovered she was deaf! A war veteran with a huge heart, what could be better? :)”



Emmett, our trainer in Austin, helped this wonderful pair pass the Public Access Test! Randi suffers from Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, MST (Military Sexual Trauma), and Migraine Headaches that leave him physically paralyzed.

The PAT was held at Home Depot in Georgetown, TX.

Emmett writes:

Wounded warrior Randi and her now Service Dog Gunner (Gunnerson) did AMAZING on their public access test! Randi served in the Air Force and after some time began training with Gunner. He is an incredibly bright Yorkie and is ALWAYS focused on Randi. The highlight of their public access test was Gunner demonstrating his “leave it”. Randi threw out a few treats, commanded him to leave them and walked Gunner through. He did not so much as sniff at them! Gunner also did exceptionally well on the obstacle course we created from the carts at Home Depot. He sat and greeted a stranger with ease as well as kept composure when his leash was taken. Randi and Gunner’s dedication was very apparent. Congrats to this team! You have done phenomenal! We will continue to work on disability related tasks.”

The following were perfect:

Dog did not try to leave vehicle until given release command.
The Dog waited in the vehicle until released.* Yes
The Dog waited outside the vehicle under control. Yes
The Dog remained under control while another dog was walked past. Yes

Relative heel position, not straining or forging.
The Dog stayed in relative heel position. Always
The Dog was calm around traffic.* Yes
The Dog stopped when the client came to a halt. Always

The Dog waited quietly at the door until commanded to enter.* Yes
The Dog waited on the inside until able to return to heel position.* Yes

The Dog was within the prescribed distance of the client. Always
The Dog ignored the public, remaining focused on the client. Always
The Dog readily adjusted to speed changes. Always
The Dog readily turned corners–did not have to be tugged or jerked to change direction. Always
The Dog readily maneuvered through tight quarters. Always

The Dog responded readily to the recall command–did not stray away, seek attention from others, or trudge slowly.* Yes
The Dog remained under control and focused on the client.* Yes
The Dog came within the prescribed distance of the client.* Yes
The Service Dog came directly to the client.* Yes

The Dog responded promptly to the command to sit. Always
The Dog remained under control around food–not trying to get food and not needing repeated corrections.* Yes
The Dog remained composed while the shopping cart passed–did not shy away, show signs of fear, etc.* Yes
The Dog maintained a sit-stay while being petted by a stranger.* Yes

The Dog responded promptly to the command to down. Always
The Dog remained under control around the food–not trying to get food and not needing repeated corrections.* Yes
The Dog remained in control while the child approached – child should not taunt dog or be overly dramatic.* Yes

If the Service Dog jumps, turns, or shows a quick startle type reaction, that is fine. The Service Dog should not show fear, aggression, or continue to be affected by the noise.
The Service Dog remained composed during the noise distraction.* Yes

The Service Dog is unobtrusive and out of the way of patrons and employees as much as possible.* Yes
The Service Dog maintained proper behavior, ignoring food and being quiet.* Yes

When told to drop the leash, the team maintained control and the client got the leash back in position.* Yes

Another person can take the dog’s leash and the dog’s partner can move away without aggression or undue stress on the part of the dog.* Yes

The Service Dog stayed in relative heel position. Always
The Service Dog was calm around traffic.* Yes
The Service Dog stopped when the client came to a halt. Always

The Service Dog waited until commanded to enter the vehicle. Yes
The Service Dog readily entered the vehicle upon command. Yes

When the Service Dog did well, the client praised the Service Dog. Always
The Service Dog is relaxed, confident, and friendly. Always
The client kept the Service Dog under control. Always
The client was prepared with proper working materials and equipment in case of an access confrontation (laws, etc.). Yes

Were there any unique situations that made any portion of this test not applicable (write comments below)? I marked “yes” for dog waited until exited the vehicle but Randi physically removes him to keep his joints in the best shape (it is a very high truck). That’s the only “non-applicable” part.


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!”

Wounded Warrior, Cody, and SDIT, Mastiff and Labrador mix, “Zeus”

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.

Cherry writes:

“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! :)”



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!!”