Laurie – Coos Bay/North Bend

Coos Bay North Bend Oregonwounded warrior

Laurie is the CEO and Founder of Service Dog Express, LLC, which she opened in 2012 with the idea of increasing the accessibility to Service Dogs for those with disabilities who were on limited budgets, with no waiting periods.  She matched thoroughly tested shelter/rescue dogs with humans, with the goal of reducing euthanasia rates and living up to her company’s motto, “A dog’s life saved, a human’s life enriched”.  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 canine researchers, trainers, and behaviorists in the world, including Dr. Stanley Coren, Dr. Pamela Reid, Dr. Deni Elliot, Dr. Mark Bekoff, Dr. Nicholas Dodman, and Dr. Ian Dunbar, and was an apprentice and eventually offered a position as a trainer at the Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, CA.  However, Laurie’s desire to train Service Dogs for those with other disabilities, especially PTSD, psychiatric, TBI, mobility, etc. motivated her decision to create Service Dog Express.  

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 through neuroplasticity.  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 training with Service Dogs ultimately helps the healing process for each client.  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 Service Dog Expressclose 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 training the first ever full-access Service Dog on base for an Army Wounded Warrior in the long-term Transitional Battalion. This Wounded Warrior suffered from severe PTSD, TBI, and multiple physical injuries.  Within 9 months of training with the Warrior’s personal dog, they received this full access grant by the Commanding General.  She chose to focus on this particular population Air Force TBI Service Dogbecause of her affiliation with the military as a proud active duty Air Force spouse for 13 years. Her Texas Aggie husband, Joey, is an honorably retired 20 year veteran, and serves as the Director of HR and IT for Service Dog Express.

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 cycles of relationships that included severe emotional, sexual, and physical violence, including sexual trafficking. After “escaping” from her last perpetrator, she worked 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, including EMDR and CBT, 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 Laurie Gawelkodo in one’s life, as her Master’s graduation to herself was her beloved Service Dog, “Bonnie” – rescued from a shelter and still going strong. She became completely invested in breaking the “victimization cycle” that many experience when trauma starts at a young age or affects relationship choices.  She and Joey have now been married for over 15 years.  In addition, in 2010, Laurie was given an antibiotic that left her with permananent Cipro Toxicity, resulting in excruciating 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, and her determination to walk and run and train these dogs despite pain has been instrumental in her being able to rewire many of those pain signals.

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 numerous letters of commendation from many members of government for her work trying to enhance the community for both veterans and civilians.  She was chosen as one of five experts on Service Dogs in the US by Secretary of Transportation Foxx to discuss, in Washington in front of Congress, revising the Air Carrier Access Act so that airlines offer equal and humane treatment to those with psychiatric disabilities flying with their Service Dogs.

Community ConnectHer company is also featured in the University of Texas – San Antonio Small Business Development Center’s magazine as one of the fastest growing small businesses in San Antonio. 2014wla-logo4c 600xx600-401-0-0

Laurie is a 2014 San Antonio Business Journal Women’s Inspirational Leadership Award Winner.  Service Dog Express - Read More

Note from Laurie: I COULD NOT have achieved this dream without the incredible help of our wonderful trainers, fosters, rescue groups, clients, and the consistent help from wonderful veterinarians with whom she has collaborated for years. 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, civilians, and rescue dogs for as long as possible, continuing to expand my company’s scope of disabilities assisted through research and continued education.  I adore EVERY breed of dog, and see amazing, untapped potential in canines AND humans every single day.



39 thoughts on “Laurie – Coos Bay/North Bend”

  1. Hi there,

    I am an Air Force veteran. I was referred to your website because I have two wonderful pups Max and Maxine who someone dumped on Trans-mountain road here in El Paso, Texas. They were dumped when they were approximately 3 months old. I have taken care of them given them their shots and they have been spayed; now I am looking for a veteran that can benefit from their wonderful personality and loving nature.

    I heard that you train these wonderful pets to help wounded soldiers. I am hoping you will help me in this endeavor. I can send a couple of pictures of these spoiled babies so that you can see in them what I do and how they can help another veteran in need of companionship. If they can be put on the list for available pets that would be great. The do need some training on walking on a leash, but because of their nature it would not take long to do that.

    I will keep them and take care of them and their needs until someone is found who needs them. There is no need to find them a foster home, since they have one here with me.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Mary Carmen Altamirano

  2. I was given your name by the head lady after I applied and filled out an application.Laurie 4 and half yrs ago I had a very serious TBI ,a blood clot on my brain. I couldn’t need your help more than now as I just left intensive care as I had 4 grand mal sezuires and quit breathing and have spent the last 2days at the doctors and the specialists thought I should be readmitted but I am home in bed. I acquired a black mouth curr dog 6months ago and she already knows sit,lay,up,come,stay,turn,front door,back door,mail,trash, and potty I know in no time she would be super easy to train because she’s laying by my head and won’t let me out of her sight and she knew something was off because I felt funny for around 2 or more days. I live alone and also have chronic pain and neuropathy from my knees down and also 2 discs 3 and 4 laying backwards on all my nerves causing me serious whole upper back ,shoulder and arm pain. I had 1 neck surgery 11yrs ago because of my spinal cord closing and sepsis so they put a plate and screws to stabilize it. I had skin cancer surgery on my arm just days before intact while I was in ICU they removed the stitches. I also have COPD and right now have Bronchitis.Last time I had this it turned into double pneumonia and bronchitis. I am disabled and have a great guest bedroom and live so close to 1-35 I could walk there. My dog is 5 yrs old and I would prefer to have her trained since she already lives with me and I. have pet allergies and she’s easily trainable. I am currently living on a fixed income. I so wished I had her trained last week I could’ve forsure known sooner than I did. I would greatly appreciate any and all the help you can connect me with. And I have been seriously stressed out lately since my pain level has doubled. Thanks for your time it’s greatly appreciated -DeAnna Whitt. p.s. I hope you get everything I wrote since my phone broke and I am waiting on them to overnight me a new one.
    I don’t see everything I wrote. I just spent 3days in ICU. I had 4 grand mal sezuires and quit breathing. I also have chronic pain,a messed up neck,neuropathy from the knees Down,whole upper back pain. I had skin cancer removed then this happened intact hospital took stiches out. I have a dog trained for sit,stay,lay,up,turn,front door,back door up in car and who has layer by my side and even wants in the restroom with me. She’s a southern black mouth curr and super smart. I am sick now and she cried when I came in today from my Dr. Appt. she knows something is wrong. I’VE been in ICU 4 SEZUIRES IQUIT BREATHING

  3. I’m proud of what your doing with your life. I also got shot in the chest by my husband at the time in 1977 and unless I died they did nothing back then for me and I was holding my 4month old daughter at the time. Had I been left handed her head would have been blown off. It was a 12 gauge double barrel sawed off shotgun. The dear Lord helped me forgive and also he lost his life very young to alcohol consumption. He was drunk and never even remembered shooting us. I have done for myself my whole life but now I need help seriously.

  4. I have had the joy and blessing to meet Laurie. She is an amazing woman. My service dog “Mopar” had a completely torn ACL just 1 month after moving to San Antonio from Hawaii. I was lost,fearful, and didn’t know what vet was best and would understand my connection with him. Laurie told me what vet I needed to go to and even took us there one Saturday when my truck was broken down. She stayed with us and helped me understand what was going on. After Mopar had surgery to replace his ACL Laurie was always just a phone call away. As a worried mom I had a lot of concerns. She was always there for us. I am truly grateful for Laurie and her support. The world needs more people like her. I wish that every dog mom had a friend like Laurie! After all the time she talked me out of a panic attack or just called to check on us I am proud to call Laurie my Friend!

  5. I would like to pursue a career in training dogs for veterans and/or the disabled. What path should I consider taking? I’ve looked into Bergin University, but wonder if there’s an option in Texas. Since you are in this field, would you please advise? Any info or thoughts are truly appreciated!
    Lisa Tanner

  6. I am a former Air Force personell that was unfortunately raped brutally not once, but twice and have been plagued with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other disabilities, I am hoping to have my Great Dane/ Boxer, Shadow trained to be my service dog. He has been my anchor in all of this as well as a blessing. He has a wonderful temperament and we have an amazing bond. I would love to hear back from you as soon as possible in hopes of having you or another respectable dog trainer help me in this training. I prefer a woman because I still have a fear of men. Please let me know if you are able to help. Thank you and God Bless!

  7. Hi I found you while searching for support groups for spouse of veterans who have ptsd. I am just trying to find anything that will help my husband live his daily life a little easier.Let me just give you a little history my husband is a Marine who served two tours in Iraq first time in 03 and second in 04. He refuses to go to any groups and the VA only wants to pump him with meds that turn him into a zombie which he is not able to function lately I have been noticing he is more on edge not only with myself but with our 4 children. Please I feel like having a support dog who can feel what he is going through and feel when he is overly stressed and his anxiety is at an all time high would be greatly beneficial than meds. Thank you and GOD bless.

  8. I am one of the new trainers Bro. It has been an enjoyable ride, an a honor and pleasure to work for Service Dog Express, and Laurie, and Joey.

  9. I need help finding a trainer who could help our family dog serve as a seizure dog for my daughter. Please reach out to me, Laurie!

  10. Hi, Looking for a possible home for a full blood Belgian Malonois, 2 yrs old. she’s beautiful, intelligent and eager to learn. She was bought by a young Vet with PTSD who was told that she have been trained for therapy. Whether this was the case is hard to say, but she has created more stress and complications than she has helped at this point, not because of bad behavior, but simply because she does not appear to have completed the requisite skills to respond to PTSD. I am helping inquire if there is a place for her, she’s a wonderful dog and with the proper input, will be a great companion. Thanks

  11. Good evening,

    I have a 10 month old german shepard that i would love to donate to become a service dog. Sadly die to allergy reasons for my family we cannot house him anymore. He was originally supposed to be a service dog for me as i am an army combat veteran. He is up to date on all shots, neutered, chipped, and already recieved some training. It saddens me to have to let him go, howver i couldnt be happier to have him with a someone that needs, wants, and truly will love him. He is a very affectionate dog with a playful side. Please contact me so that i can donate him. All medical records for him will be available upon request. I am in the el paso area.

  12. I will like to have my dog is a service dog so I can have the opportunity to visit my husband at the nursing home an Bring her with me to visit school or people in need .It will be apreciate if you get in touch with me at 210-xxx-xxxx My name is Beatriz S LIVE IN SAN ANTONIO TEXAS THANK YOU

    1. Hi Beatriz. Thanks for your comment. From what you are describing you will want a Therapy Dog. The difference between Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs is that a Service Dog is for one person and perform tasks for them in every day life. A Therapy Dog is trained to be shared by groups of people such as hospitals and care homes. We are a Service Dog training company, so our best advice is to contact Therapy Dogs of San Antonio who will be able to point you in the right direction. Here is their link :

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