Laurie received her undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon University, one of the top 26 Research Universities in the U.S. and completed four years of graduate study to receive her M.S. at Bergin University for Canine Life Studies in California, the only Assistance Dogs International (ADI) accredited Service Dog training university in the United States. The school was founded by Dr. Bonita Bergin, the “inventor” of the Service Dog concept. She is the Dean of the school and was one of Laurie’s instructors each semester. While studying there, Laurie had the tremendous fortune to be instructed by some of the top researchers and trainers in the world, including Dr. Stanley Coren (reknowned author of many books including “The Intelligence of Dogs” and “How Dogs Think”), Dr. Pamela Reid (author of several books on dog training including “Excel-Erated Learning”), Dr. Deni Elliot (Director and Professor, Department of Journalism and Media Studies at the University of South Florida, a specialist in Canine Ethics), Dr. Mark Bekoff (author of “Animals Matter” and “The Emotional Lives of Animals”, both with Jane Goodall) and many others whose work included statistical research and canine cognition and learning theory. She attended seminars with Dr. Nicholas Dodman (author of “If Only They Could Speak”), and was an apprentice and eventually accepted as a trainer at the Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, CA. Although she has the utmost respect for the work of the Guide Dogs for the Blind, she was truly interested in working with Service Dogs for other disabilities beside the blind.
Laurie is a certified Therapy Dog trainer, a certified Rape Crisis Counselor, and has worked at top psychiatric hospitals such as Western Psychiatric University and Clinic in Pittsburgh performing research on life stressors and how they relate to the onset of a broad spectrum of psychiatric disorders, including but not limited to PTSD, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression. Laurie has worked for several years as a veterinary technician part-time while in school. After her Master’s degree, she obtained additional Service Dog training from East Coast Assistance Dogs (ECAD) in Dobbs Ferry, NY.
Over the years, Laurie has taken a great interest in how the Service Dog training process has proven to not only anecdotally, but clinically “rewire” the brain’s neuronal connectivity. She has collaborated with several researchers who have conducted brain imaging (P.E.T. scans, fMRIs, and S.P.E.C.T scans) that provide scientifically-based proof that Service Dogs increase positive changes in the brain. She has also worked with researchers who have proven, again through scientific methods, that Service Dogs can detect numerous abnormalities in patients suffering from both psychiatric and physical disabilities using saliva samples. She also interned at the renowned Pine Street Foundation, where she observed groundbreaking clinical studies of canines detecting early stage ovarian, lung, breast, and other cancers through scent detection.
Laurie has been featured on Great Day SA (San Antonio’s CBS Station KENS 5), on several news segments on San Antonio’s local television news broadcasts and on local radio stations. She was on Animal Planet’s “Pit Bulls and Parolees” after saving three pit bulls that had been viciously attacked by a porcupine and were close to death due to infection. The trapping was a 14-hour process, but the dogs were rescued and are now safe at their new home. She also ran “Laurie’s Lost Ones”, a stray rescue and educational organization for dog owners, which was officially recognized by the City of San Antonio.
Laurie’s graduate thesis focused on obtaining full access rights for an Army Wounded Warrior with severe PTSD, TBI, and extreme physical injuries and his Service Dog at a local military medical installation – something that had never been done before at this particular post. She chose to focus on this particular population because of her affiliation with the military as a proud active duty Air Force spouse for 13 years. Her Texas Aggie husband is an honorably retired 20 year veteran, and being part of the military population is what instigated her particular interest in helping Wounded Warriors.
On a personal note, she was a victim of sexual assault both as a young child and when she was 18. At the age of 18, she did not seek professional help, and did not prosecute. However, in her 20s, she was involved in a relationship that included severe emotional, sexual, and physical violence, including sexual trafficking. After “escaping” from her perpetrator, she did work with a defense attorney and decided to testify against her abuser, who received years of jail time. She also became a Certified Rape Crisis Counselor to help others who had experienced similar situations. She was on-call 24 hours a day to meet victims once they checked into emergency rooms to assist them through the grueling process resulting from sexual assault, encouraging them to prosecute and serving as a liaison between them, the police, and medical staff.
Laurie has obviously experienced complex PTSD herself, which helps her empathize with many of her clients. She has experienced anxiety, depression, agoraphobia, flashbacks, etc. Through counseling and turning her negative experiences into positives by trying to help others, especially through the work with Service Dogs, she has worked through many of those issues. She has experienced first-hand what the power of Service Dogs can do in one’s life. In addition, in 2010, she was given an antibiotic that left her with painful neuropathy in her legs. This has also helped her understand what trials her clients with constant pain and mobility issues experience. Her Service Dog, Bonnie, has been a true blessing in her life.
She currently serves as the President of the Board of Directors for In Dog We Trust rescue in San Antonio, and is on the Board of Directors of Give Us Paws in Houston. She had served on the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee, has had Service Dog Express accredited with the Better Business Bureau and has received letters of commendation from US, State, local Representatives, and Secretary of Transportation Foxx for her work trying to enhance the community and work on revising the Air Carrier Access Act so that airlines offer equal and humane treatment to those with psychiatric disabilities flying with their Service Dogs.
Note from Laurie: I COULD NOT have achieved all of this without the incredible help of our wonderful trainers, fosters, local rescue groups, clients, family, and the consistent help from our wonderful veterinarians. I go to sleep each night thankful for all the people (and doggies) in my life who have helped me help others, and feel that my negative experiences in life have prepared me to be in a position to understand and help those suffering with disabilities. My goal is to continue to help Wounded Warriors and civilians, along with everyone associated with Service Dog Express for as long as possible. She adores EVERY breed of dog, and sees amazing, untapped potential in canines every single day.