Category Archives: Virginia

Catt and Baron’s trip to Italy

Wonderful news and lovely pictures from our former trainer and client, Catherine, in Virginia!! We are so proud of her – she has fought so hard throughout her medical issues and now is in a position to give back!! We love you, Catherine!!

Hi Laurie!

Ok – so update from me and Baron time! We went to Italy for 18 days (July 1 – July 18) and it was AMAZING!!! If anyone from Service Dog Express needs any help with advice/logistics on traveling to Italy and seeing the major sites, please let me know. We went to Venice, Florence, Bologna, Siena, Tuscany, and Rome. It was very Service Dog-friendly for the most part, and I had almost no issues, minus the fact that it was ridiculously hot the whole time. Luckily Baron and I managed to stay cool and had a fantastic time. He was a major fan of the gelato LOL! He handled the whole trip like a champ.

In other news, I got into graduate school!!!!! It was a totally last minute and very random application I filled out in June just for the experience of applying, I didn’t even remotely think I would get in. But while I was in Italy I got an email saying I got in! I had applied to American University (in DC) for their post-baccalaureate premedical program because I’m hoping to go to medical school. Could not believe I got into it! So now I’m moving to DC in two weeks…totally last minute! So Baron and I are very excited about that.

My health has been slowly but steadily improving over the last couple months and I haven’t had a POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) episode in 4 weeks (hope this doesn’t jinx it). My doctors are hopeful that this treatment they have me on will continue to help and that my condition will stabilize.

So lots of very exciting things going on over here on the east coast! I hope you are both doing well and can’t wait to hear back from you! I of course attached some photos of Baron (and me) in Italy!

This picture so clearly shows the bond between Baron and I. Whenever there is room, he always lays his head on my lap or on my feet; he just likes to be close to me.
Baron at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He didn’t think it was very interesting; I think he was expecting some pizza LOL
Walking around Rome — in Rome, Italy.
The Colosseum!
Baron’s favorite part of Italy….GELATO!! I let him taste quite a few of the flavors and crunch on the cone sometimes. LOL- he was a big fan of the fruit ones. I think in this picture its a nut flavored one.

Love you guys!
Catt & Baron

Update from Andrew, and Service Dog “Ender”.

A wonderful update from our former client, Andrew, with his Service Dog “Ender”. Andrew is a Crime Prevention Specialist with his County Police Department in Virginia! He is completely dedicated to educating the community about the value of Service Dogs. What a WONDERFUL gift he is giving back! Here is his latest email to us:

Hi Laurie,

Ender and I have now spoken to 4 groups about Service Dogs (definitions, some training requirements, their uses, access permissions, etc.) The first two groups were at a State convention of High School Students that are focusing on entering either human or animal medicine. Out of that, we were asked to speak at a Vocational school that teaches students to become Vet Techs. We have now educated around 150 people with this information. There’s no way that I could handle the groups size without Ender. Of course with his sweet personality and temperament, he really helps build connections and relationships. I am forwarding the email that the instructor from yesterday sent along with two pictures that she took. As you can see, I think we made some progress. I hope that they’ll benefit from the training.

Best Wishes,

“We need the community to be our eyes and ears. We are the hands and feet. Together we can speak with one voice”

Good afternoon, Andrew

Thank you so much for coming in today and speaking to the students. They thoroughly enjoyed it and they learned a great deal. You and Ender are making a difference and you are a great advocate for the service animal. I would love to help out at any point with fundraisers or public events to help educate the public. My students would be interested in any type of public awareness that we can do to support such a wonderful cause. I have attached the photos from today.

I would greatly appreciate it if you would forward me an address in which we can send some words of gratitude. Have a great evening.

Thank you,.
Angela F, LVT
Valley Career and Technical Center
Veterinary Assistant Instructor

Update from Andrew and SD Ender

A wonderful update from our past client, Andrew, who works as a Crime Prevention Specialist with the Police Department in Virginia, and his Service Dog, Ender!

Dear Laurie,
Ender is doing great! We keep a regular training regimen just so that he stays up to par. He’s still a local celebrity! In fact, our local Starbucks has made him their unofficial mascot! It’s one of his favorite places to go, and it forces me to go out the house and interact at some level with people. (I threw away my coffee pot for this reason as well.) I’m attaching a picture of him there. We actually had his birthday party there in December. I was asked to speak to our local American Legion the other day about Service Dogs. They want to raise funds for local veterans in need of one. Out of that, I (we) were asked to do two presentations next Saturday in Williamsburg, for students entering the medical field, about the benefits of Service dogs. It wouldn’t be possible to do without Ender’s help! I’m a little anxious about it, but I got them to break the students up into small groups and schedule breaks for Ender and I.

Thank you again!


Catt and Baron

From our dear trainer, Catherine, in Virginia – and update on her own Service Dog, beautiful Baron!!!


Service Dog Express's photo.

My Service Dog, Baron, is nearly 11 months old now, and after much debate with myself about when was the appropriate time to neuter him, I decided to

do it as soon as possible. He was neutered last week. I was an absolute disaster the day he was there; my childhood dog passed away during a routine surgery years ago, so I just was so worried about Baron.

I have discovered I am a very overprotective momma when it comes to Baron. Ever since my wonderful dog, Duke, recently died of a very aggressive brain tumor at such a young age (2), I worry (sometimes a little too much LOL) over Baron. At not even a year old, the vet receptionists all know my phone number when it pops up on their incoming calls! But he’s perfectly healthy!

Baron and I have continued our training since he passed his Public Access Test some time ago, and the number of commands he knows is astonishing to me. We’ve been invited to speak again to some of the Companion Animal classes here at Virginia Tech and I’m very excited about that!

Baron has helped me so much through my struggles with my health. As you may remember, I have chronic Lyme disease as well as a couple co-infections. I’ve had my PICC line in for about 3 months now – I believe it’s getting removed in a week or so – and have been on a lot of medications. I’m FINALLY starting to feel better!!! So thank goodness for that. One thing that has come up through all this is that I was originally diagnosed with POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or Dysautonomia) after doctors examined me, because I had a lot of instances where I would be totally fine and then I would fall over unconscious. Baron alerts to it! So, since I’ve had him, I’ve been able to either leave class or sit down so that when I drop, it’s not in a public or dangerous situation. In the last month or so there has been some debate on if I actually have POTS or if these are mini drop seizures. Still debating that, but either way Baron keeps me very safe from them!

So now on to list the massive number of commands he knows:

– Sit/Stay
– Down/Stay
– Here (our version of Come)
– Heeling – both on and off leash
– Load Up
– Let’s Go – getting out of the car
– Drop – drop it
– Cover – front and back
– Get It – pick up and bring whatever I point at (literally anything, including a piece of bacon I made him retrieve without eating…I’m a meanie I know)
– Under – going under table, chair, etc.
– Focus – eye contact
– Interrupting anxious behaviors
– Waking me up from night terrors
– Alerting to my “drop episodes”
– Pull – helping me up stairs or hills
– Lay – deep pressure therapy
– Place – go to your bed
– Tug – open pull doors/cabinets or pulling doors closed
– Close It – closing doors/cabinets
– Light – turning lights on (we haven’t learned turning them off yet)
– Push – pushing button for elevator or handicap door
– Get _____ – he knows the difference between Phone, Book, Meds, Keys, Leash
– Hold – he likes to carry things for me LOL like grocery lists. He’ll just carry it around wherever we go
– Back Up – backwards heel
– Out – get out of whatever room he’s currently in
– Put it – point at table or wherever and he’ll put his object on it
– Take it to ____ – heknows me and my mom so far
– Shake
– Rollover – by far his favorite command ever; if I’m trying to teach him something new and he doesn’t know what I’m asking he just rolls over!
– Around – run around me in a circle
– Bang – play dead

As you can see, there are a LOT of commands LOL! He loves to learn new things though and he is such an absolute joy to train. There are of course some fun commands in there, too, because he has to have something to show off to the kids we speak to.  Anyways, that is my update! I’ll attach some pictures of Baron too! In one of them he is wearing his “doggy pajamas”. Yup you read that right!! Baron blew out his entire undercoat in November and didn’t grow one back…he’s odd – what can I say. He’s a shorter-haired Golden Retriever and he also has very thin hair. So he gets cold – he has 3 pairs of doggy pajamas (I only have pictures of the one) that he has to wear some days when it’s below a certain temperature. Otherwise, he refuses to go outside and if I force him out, his teeth chatter and he shivers. I think he’s actually a giant chihuahua, but that’s just me LOL.

Catt & Baron


Only 10 minutes to learn

From our wonderful trainer, Catherine, in Virginia, who is having some very new experiences with her SD, Baron! Despite have POTS and several other medical issues, she is a trainer extraordinaire! Catherine writes:

“Hi Laurie! So I’m up in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec in Canada. I was super worried about having issues with Baron being with me as my Service Dog, but I have had zero issues the last 2 days! I did bring his rabies certificate and vaccination records, and the certificate from SDE stating that he passed the PAT just in case, and I did have to show it once. Normally, I would have given a lecture about how it wasn’t required to show it like normal, but since it’s another country, I just showed them his vaccines and everything and they were satisfied. They weren’t really even questioning it; they just asked that if I did have any papers that I showed them, but if not it was alright.

This is Baron’s first time seeing snow so that has been a blast! My family is skiing but since I can’t with my leg and the PICC line I now have in (my health has been extremely bad), I’ve been just hanging out with Baron and teaching him new tasks. I attached a video of his newest one! Him picking things up for me has become one of his main tasks since I’ve been having a lot of mobility issues. We’re next working on him taking things from others (like my family) and bringing it to me and vice versa. Baron LOVES the mobility tasks – they’re his favorite!! Teaching him to “put it on the table” only took about 10 minutes! He loves learning those and looks so proud when he does!”

Baron’s First Flight

From our trainer, Catherine, in Virginia, about her own Service Dog, Baron!

“I don’t know why I’m always so shocked by how amazing Baron is, but he never ceases to amaze me. His first flight ever he went through security perfectly and handled the crowds like a total pro. Our first plane was tiny and awful!

We sat in the back (there were a lot of disabled people who needed bulkhead seating) and he squeezed himself under one tiny seat where you would normally put your bag. The flight was so turbulent even I was feeling sick, but Baron just stayed calm and rested through the whole thing!!! Our next plane was WAY better, we got bulkhead seating and all the flight attendants asked to pet him and he got majorly loved on LOL. All in all he handled it like a seasoned SD and even did an alert during our second flight. I always forget he’s only 8 months old!! He acts like such an adult the majority of the time!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Catt & Baron”

Joyce and SDIT Willa

From our trainer Catherine, in Virginia, who is training with Joyce and her SDIT, Willa! Joyce suffers from severe PTSD.

“I met with Joyce today and she was honest with me and told me she had not been doing her homework and practicing with Willa in public. Which, of course I could see when we went to Petsmart. But, she explained to me why and I talked to her a bit about how important it was and that I could understand as a fellow PTSD sufferer how difficult it is, but that it is critical to the training process.

After our talk, Joyce seemed much more confident and determined to grit her teeth and get out in public – so I am confident that next time I see them they’ll be much improved!! We also worked on some heeling, because Joyce has a habit of hunching her shoulders and looking down as she walks and Willa doesn’t view her as “the boss”. So I told her to pretend she was the Queen of England and Willa was one of her followers and to look up and straight ahead and Willa would follow. Once we practiced this in the parking lot, Willa was SO much more attentive to Joyce and was walking at a perfect heel even with the cart! So we went back into Petsmart and voila! Beautiful! They’re going to be much improved by our next session, I can feel it :-)”

7 year-old Aiden and SDiT Coe

Trainer Catherine, in Virginia, writes about her recent training:

I met with 7 year-old Aiden, who suffers from multiple physical disabilities, seizures, and some cognitive disabilities, and his mother, Amie. Since Aiden is nonverbal and although he can use sign language, can do minimal signs, I do 95% of the training with Amie. They adopted 1 year old Lab/Beagle mix, Coe from a rescue when I did an evaluation on him and found him to be a lovely match for the family! The last two weeks has been spent with Coe settling in. He’s adjusting super well! Amie says he has some fear of loud noises, but we suspect he was an outside dog prior to his rescue, so once he’s exposed to noises, he seems to adjust really well. They’ve been working on “sit”, “down”, “touch”, and “heeling” nicely on a leash. Coe walks beautifully with Amie, and Coe will even let Aiden hold the leash and not pull at all! Aiden cannot walk on his own, so eventually Coe will learn to help balance him. Coe loves to sit with Aiden on the couch and when Aiden has seizures and falls over, Coe is amazing about staying put and making sure that Aiden doesn’t fall off! The bond these two have is BEAUTIFUL!

I took my SD Baron’s vest over just to try it on to see size-wise what kind of vest would be good for Coe. It fit perfectly and something amazing happened. As I watched, Jay (Amie’s boyfriend) was helping Aiden to walk and Aiden grabbed a hold of the loop on the back of the vest Coe was wearing and with Jay’s help, leaned on Coe and the 3 of them walked all the way across the basement and back…WITH NO TRAINING!!!! I stood there absolutely amazed!!!! I know this dog is going to do great things for Aiden and I can’t believe I forgot to get pictures. I’ll have to get some next time!”


Catt and Baron PASSED!

From our client and trainer, Catherine, in Virginia – a picture of her and SD Baron after just passing their PAT!!

“Hey Laurie!

So in case you wanted to post on the Facebook that Baron and I passed our PAT, here is a picture that my friend took of us right afterwards he and I are so excited!!!”

SO PROUD OF YOU BOTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SDiT Baron, Catt, and the Presentation

Such joyful news and a testament to how much Service Dogs help us! This is from our newest trainer in VA – Catherine – with her SDIT, Baron! Catherine is a brilliant student at Virginia Tech!

“I wanted to let you guys know about something really exciting from Friday. I had a professional presentation on research I had done over the summer on Friday. In the past, this would have been a presentation that I would have been panicking over for weeks. I probably would have gotten so upset before the presentation even started that I would have to be excused and do the presentation in a quiet room with only the professor (if I could even do that).

With my SDIT Baron’s help, I was able to make it through the ENTIRE 2 hour presentation!!! I only had to step out twice, and Baron stayed by my feet or in a “cover” the whole time! I can’t believe I actually made it through my presentation and I am so proud of myself! I just wanted to thank you guys for everything because without Baron, I would still be hiding in my house ordering my groceries.

This is why I decided I wanted to be a trainer with SDE. I want other people to have this moment for themselves too!!

Thank you and much love from Baron & Catt!