Angels in Training
We currently have four Service Dogs and four Therapy Dogs in training. The difficulty, hurdles faced, achievements and countless hours we have been together will soon be followed and regularly updated through our website, social media sites and podcast/blog.
Nicolette & Mylo
SYNOPSIS: When only 17-years-old, Nicolette and her partner, Vivien reached out for assistance in December, 2020. Mylo was selected from a litter of puppies in Missouri as they were being guided through various procurement tests via a Zoom call with me. Both Nicolette and Vivien are just beginning their lives and have been working tirelessly to maneuver the challenges that life throws our way. Training a young pup to eventually perform life saving tasks while living with two teenagers on their own for the first time in their lives is nearly an impossible task. However, these two are taking it upon themselves to do everything necessary to improve Nicolette’s quality of life. Mylo is an 11-month old Standard Poodle who is on the brink of specialized training.
DIAGNOSIS: PTSD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Chronic Orthostatic Intolerance, Autonomic Neuropathy
SYMPTOMS: Migraines, overstimulation, unintentional self-harm, fainting, chronic fatigue
EFFECTS ON QUALITY OF LIFE: Inability to go out in public without having someone with her, cannot stand for long periods of time, avoidance of new environments or people, constant worry of past events being repeated, extreme disturbance of sleep patterns
Robert & Ryder
SYNOPSIS: In early May, 2021, Robert requested assistance for training a German Shepherd he recently adopted to become a Service Dog. At the time, Robert had not left his home by himself for over 1.5 years. Unfortunately, this particular dog did not meet the behavioral standards to eventually become a Service Dog. Robert’s life story is truly an example of an individual not giving up and overcoming adversity. After becoming close with Robert, his wife and child, there was no other decision to make besides locating and procuring the right puppy. Now at only three months-old, Ryder is already proving to eventually allow Robert and his wonderful family to experience the world together.
DIAGNOSIS: Severe Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, Epilepsy, Bilateral hip replacements
SYMPTOMS: Panic attacks, back pain, seizures, loss of consciousness, loss of balance, claustrophobic, feeling overwhelmed and desperate, pain and difficulty getting up
EFFECTS ON QUALITY OF LIFE: Cannot leave the house, nonsocial with anyone not living with him, loneliness, cannot do the things with his wife and son that he wishes to do
Emily & Vakaa
SYNOPSIS: In early August 2021, Emily reached out for assistance with hopes of training her Rough Collie, Vakaa to eventually become a Service Dog. This breed is not typically considered a first choice for Service Dogs due to certain behavioral traits they commonly share. However, Vakaa’s desire to learn, treat drive and focus have allowed us to put together a training plan which will overcome these trends. Emily and Cheyanne prove daily that they are motivated and understand the necessity of following a strict plan to overcome the number of hurdles we face. Due to Emily’s inability to drive, we try to schedule her doctor’s appointments when I’m available to take her. This allows us to also train Vakaa in public access scenarios. Vakaa is now 10 months-old and has commenced foundational training for his specialized tasks.
DIAGNOSIS: Degenerative Disc Disease, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Left Atrial Enlargement, Asthma, Situational Anxiety, Depression, Autism Spectrum Disorder
SYMPTOMS: Whole-body joint pain, weak knees that sometimes buckle, poor balance, migraines, dizziness/lightheadedness, “fibro fog,” labored breathing, tachycardia, post-exertional malaise, seizures
EFFECTS ON QUALITY OF LIFE: Cannot drive a vehicle due to seizures, rarely leaves the house due to fear of falling, unable to hold down a steady job because of symptoms, extreme and chronic exhaustion, difficulty ascending/descending stairs
Nancy & Pumpkin
SYNOPSIS: In the middle of January 2022, Nancy’s current situation was brought to my attention and a request was made to conduct a consultation on her 4-year-old Standard Poodle, Pumpkin. It was hard not to be a little pessimistic going into Nancy and Pumpkin’s consultation because on paper, it seems like a difficult situation to overcome. However, Pumpkin’s calm demeanor and obsession with Nancy quickly gave me hope that Pumpkin can absolutely create a better quality of life for Nancy. We have implemented a unique training plan for Pumpkin due to her lack of attention toward anyone if Nancy is present. This desirable trait for all Service Dogs doesn’t usually occur until after a certain point in training. So, we get to introduce new behaviors, commands, and techniques while conducting public access training. We will incorporate a lot of video taking to assist Nancy in learning along with Pumpkin every step of the way.
DIAGNOSIS: Cardiovascular Disease and number of minor strokes.
SYMPTOMS: High and low blood pressure levels, extreme shortness of breath, abnormally low levels of energy.
EFFECTS ON QUALITY OF LIFE: Nancy’s conditions result in the requirement for use of oxygen. She has a high probability of losing consciousness and must regularly monitor her blood pressure. It is nearly impossible to predict an “off-day”, and suffers from extreme fatigue levels.
Susan & Bella
THE BASICS: Bella is a Golden Retriever who turned 2 years-old just a couple months ago.
HANDLER: Bella’s primary handler and fur mama is Susan Batten. However, there may be a time or two when she is with her other favorite human, Michael – her fur papa.
INTERESTS: “I truly love my life! My fur mama and pop take me to the beach and play fetch almost every day. It’s right behind our house! I always meet new friends when we’re on the beach and I’m even allowed to play with them. Sometimes fur mama gets nervous if the other dog looks upset, so then I don’t get to say hi. I love love love meeting the short humans too! I think fur mama calls them kids. When my friend Erik comes to visit, he takes me to places I’ve never been. He says that one day I’ll get to meet all kinds of short people and tall people like my fur parents!” – Bella
BELLA’S STORY: Bella was adopted by Susan and Michael in December of 2020. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with her shortly after she came to her ‘fur’ever home. Due to her constant moving from one place to another at a young age, Bella had some confidence issues and needed to learn basic obedience. Since I was lucky enough to work with Bella, her transitional training for becoming a Therapy Dog is relatively smooth. She already has experience with visiting the Peace of Heart Community in Palm Valley. She loves interacting with everyone at POHC, where they are making a difference in the lives of young adults with autism. Our next step in training will include public access training with both Bella and Susan.
Betsy & Cash
THE BASICS: Cash is a Rough Collie who recently celebrated his 5th Birthday on September 22nd.
HANDLER: Cash’s fur mama, savior, handler and partner for life is Betsy Larey.
INTERESTS: “My interests and hobbies are…well, they are whatever my fur mama is doing! I enjoy going on walks, if mama’s with me. I’ll run through and jump over some obstacles, if mama’s with me. I do love golf cart and boat rides, if mama’s with me. My fur mama and Erik keep talking about going to different places and letting me get pet by a lot of different people. I’m never one for turning down a massage, so I can’t wait!” – Cash
CASH’S STORY: Betsy adopted Cash in early December of 2020 and requested help with him soon after bringing him home. Cash was a “Best in Show” champion dog for his previous owner, but was being retired from competing and had to find a new home. When Betsy arrived in Kentucky to pick up Cash, she was shocked to learn that he couldn’t bark. After speaking with the previous owner, she found out that his vocal cords were removed solely for dog show competitions. To make matters worse, when Betsy got home with Cash, she quickly realized that he was scared of anything and everything in his new environment. He was 4 years-old but showed no signs of ever playing, venturing outside, walking on different types of terrain, meeting other dogs, or any other experience most dogs encounter by the age of 6-months. His self-confidence was one of the lowest and saddest I’ve experienced. The first time I was with him, he wouldn’t come within 10 feet of a golf-cart. After we put together a plan and Betsy’s confidence started transferring to Cash, he is a totally different dog. Happy, confident and loves going on golf-cart rides!
Rachel & Arya
THE BASICS: Arya is a 6-month old Labrador mixed breed.
HANDLER: Arya’s handler, life saver and fur mama is Rachel Soler.
INTERESTS: “I have a lot of interests but would rather talk about my two obsessions, my little/big brother and playing fetch! I love playing with and beating up my little bro, Ryder. The problem is, my fur mama and papa always tell me that he’s going to be so much bigger than me! So, I’ll keep taking advantage of his smaller size for another week or two. I’ll listen to whatever they say though if I hear that squeaky sound coming from a ball. Oh how I love playing fetch with my fur parents, my human brother and my brother from another mother!” – Arya
ARYA’S STORY: Another incredible story is that of Arya’s! While searching for a dog to adopt who could be trained as a Service Dog for Robert, the family found a local rescue who had a Labrador available for adoption. In early August, an individual from the rescue brought Arya to Rachel’s residence so that they could meet her and I could conduct hands-on testing for her potential Service Dog training. Oddly, the individual just dropped Arya off and left while saying she would be back in a few days to either collect the adoption fee or return her. After a short time with Arya, we felt that she wasn’t going to be very big and definitely not big enough for the tasks Robert will require. However, the entire family fell in love with Arya and wanted to keep her regardless of her inability to become Robert’s Service Dog. Just two months later, the individual that we received Arya from was arrested on 17 animal cruelty charges! This incredible story is a true blessing to Arya, Rachel and her family. Soon, Arya will be a blessing to so many more as she begins her environmental socialization and additional behavioral training.
Lisha, Halsey & Banjo
THE BASICS: Banjo is a 16-month old Labrador Retriever.
HANDLER: Banjo’s fur parents, handlers, and saviors are Lisha and Halsey.
INTERESTS: “So…I love May. I love my sister from another mother, May! I love playing with May, I love biting on May’s ears and I love playing in the pool with May. I make sure to let daddy know when it’s dinner time and I am being a good dog for mommy because she has an ouchie. And…oh ya, I love May!” – Banjo
BANJO’S STORY: The incredible stories for every 4-legged angel in training doesn’t stop with Banjo. Her loving parents requested help about a year ago when she was just a pup. They had two main concerns when reaching out for assistance: Banjo’s bloodline of champion hunting dogs and May’s alpha personality. They were being proactive with getting ahead of the issues that can arise with dog whose drive to hunt once a scent is acquired can lead to runaway moments or worse. As we were putting together a plan to counteract Banjo’s hereditary traits, I began realizing that May’s reputation for being an alpha was meeting its match. What began as an effort to decrease May’s tendencies, turned into doing so for the young pup about a third as big as she was. Poor May was no longer the alpha. Now, we’re harnessing everything Banjo has to offer, rolling it up, and turning it into the most desirable traits for a Therapy Dog!