Our clients readily invite us into their lives and their homes. They share their daily dog struggles with us and we embark on our training mission. Because we work with every dog the same way we would work with our very own, we grow bonded with each one. These stories come from the homes of our clients:
I was born with a serious hereditary heart condition which worsens over the years, making it harder and harder to perform some of the activities most people do every day without a second thought. My body has tried to compensate by overproducing certain stress hormones to try and maintain a pulse of at least 60 beats per minute. I also take medications 8 times a day to help keep my pulse up. Without intervention, it drops dangerously low and I often fall and/or pass out on the floor, unconscious. My heart condition is not reversible or fixable. It causes me to faint and stop breathing or to have unfathomable chest pain. Sometimes both. I work hard every day to keep my body in balance with food, fluids, medications and exercise. Every day is different and can change from one minute to the next. I avoid taking my medication at night for at least 3 hours before going to bed. This means night time can be especially difficult. The dizziness and other symptoms are worse at night as my medication wears off.
I strive to maintain a “normal” life and work very hard to ensure people around me do not see the pain and struggle I go through. It is hard to be dependent on your loved ones. They love you and will do anything for you, but to have to ask is the hardest choice of all. In light of this, our family is currently training a puppy to be a medical alert dog for me. My puppy, Luna, was a birthday present for me from my parents. I found her at our local shelter. Then, after a lot of internet searching, we found our trainer Patsy through PAWS.
We live in Massachusetts and Patsy lives in Virginia. At first I thought no way would that work! But Patsy is wonderful, and we can complete lessons via facetime in between Luna and I making the 12 hour drive down to Virginia Beach to see Patsy. Right now we are working on training Luna to push an emergency call button on my bedroom wall which alerts 911 that there is an emergency. We are also training her to retrieve help by going upstairs to get one of my parents (even if that means opening their bedroom door) and leading them back downstairs to me.
Never in a million years would I have thought this would be possible, but slowly this dream is becoming a reality. Having Luna with me, especially at night, gives both myself and my parents the peace of mind that when I’m off my cardiac meds at night I will not pass out and be on the floor unnoticed. Even if I can’t give Luna a verbal command she will be able to alert someone. This could be life saving for me! I cannot thank Patsy enough for all her hard work and dedication. And of course, my parents and Luna too. Sometimes I don’t know who rescued who, but either way I am grateful.
After years of struggling with debilitating physical and psychological symptoms, I moved to Virginia, where I met and married the love of my life. I had made it! I had the life I had worked so hard for, including a support system like no other, a wonderful job, and acceptance into graduate school to pursue my career in clinical mental health counseling. Yet, even with all these wonderful life changes, my symptoms were not getting any better. In fact, my physical symptoms were preventing me from living life. Slowly enough to where I didn’t realize it, my world had gotten smaller and smaller to where I couldn’t leave the house most mornings to go to work. My graduate classes shifted from something that I was excited to attend to something that I dreaded. I couldn’t even drive down the road to have a date night with my husband without potentially suffering from symptoms that could easily spiral out of control. I thought about how my life and independence had shriveled away at 26 years old and feared about how life might look at 36 or 46 years old. It was then that I realized I needed to get serious about my medical treatment and seek out holistic care options for my chronic, life-long conditions.
I found PAWS Training Centers after months of researching whether a potential service dog would be right for me. It is a very personal choice to use a dog to mitigate a disability, but after much research, counsel, and prayer, I decided to go for it! I chose PAWS Training Center over other programs because they offer the potential to use your own pet, should they meet up to the standards of a service dog. My trainer, Patsy, immediately made me feel comfortable and excited to work with PAWS Training Centers. I look forward to each of our sessions and am so encouraged by her. SAMSON, my three-year-old service dog in training, is a rock star and I love working with him as much as he loves working with me. I’ve had him since he was 10 weeks old and have always enjoyed training him, but Patsy takes it to a new, challenging level.
We are about to test for Phase 2 (advanced obedience) and it seems that our training is just flying by! SAMSON and I work hard daily to proof his skills, but he meets every new challenge like he was born for this. I know that SAMSON cannot take away my disabilities, but my hope is that with a service dog alerting me before my symptoms arise and assisting me with the debilitating ones, I will be able to gain back independence lost and continue my journey in life.
I want to tell you how much Benny and I enjoy working with Kayse and I wanted to take this time to tell how wonderful my last lessons have been with Benny and Kayse. I have shared with her my anxiety over what my perception of the lessons would be like due to my history with anxiety. They were nothing like that at all. Boy was I thankful!
Not only is Kayse an amazing educator and mentor in her field but she is also an outstanding communicator with humans and non humans alike. Her sensitivity and compassion for understanding how to listen and work with us has been fantastic. Her abilities to communicate, educate, and work with clients such as myself with issues have been positively amazing experiences for Benny and myself. Her knowledge of all facets of canines and their world is beyond remarkable to me. Kayse’s demeanor, personality, sense of compassion and humor are just phenomenal. I never have enough great things to say about Kayse.
A special heartfelt thank you from Benny and I to Kayse.
EL and Benny
I’m a combat disabled veteran who served 8 years in the United States Marine Corps and very proud of that fact. I have overcome many challenges in my life from childhood to serving my country to transitioning into the civilian world. It was my last deployment in 2009-2010 that really sent me in a downward spiral and coming home to my mother passing away a few months after. I was lost and too prideful to ask for help. I stepped up to the plate so to speak and realized this is the life I have to live with; I need to find ways to improve it because I have so many counting on me. I have been to multiple treatment places and talked to many doctors and have the pill bottles to prove it. I never wanted my life to be consumed by taking pills to feel whole again. I reached out to my Combat causality nurses with the Navy Marine Corp Relief Society and asked about the option of a service dog. I have always been a dog guy and it seemed every time I would go to a friend’s house their dog or dogs would always be drawn to me. It made me feel peaceful to have that type of connection. I got word that I could start training with PAWS Training Centers and I was on cloud nine. The search for my best friend started. I knew this would be difficult but I was ready for the challenge. My boss and his wife had just rescued a puppy named Duke and I had already grown to love this puppy, so they let him come live with me. We have been inseparable since day one. He is well known at work because he goes everywhere with me. I’m so grateful for the PAWS staff and Patsy for helping train me so Duke and I can become a working team. This is my short story and I hope more people can benefit from this great organization.
I contacted PAWS Training Centers due to my disability. We started training with Patsy and she was amazing. From the beginning Riley and I had a “pet” relationship. At first Riley and I were not a strong team. She didn’t listen to me because I was not a leader in my family. I had no confidence and no assertiveness training with her. I realized I had to step up and complete the homework as we got further through the phases. I realized through Patsy that Riley can tell if I am anxious or unsure. Myself as a person had to change due to the fact that Riley followed and did the cues with Patsy. PAWS Training Centers and Patsy helped me gain the confidence to complete the program. Patsy instilled in me that “I got this” and encouraged me throughout the process. Currently, Riley and I have a very strong team bond. She knows it is time to work when I have her get her harness on. We get compliments on how well she is behaved. Honestly, this is due to Patsy, PAWS Training Centers, and my husband. It is a huge relief on my family that Riley can brace, provide stability, and retrieve. I would recommend PAWS Training Centers to anyone who is serious about having a service dog. You have to keep up with the training during and after you and your service dog become certified. Thank you PAWS Training Centers and thank you Patsy!! You all are awesome!
After graduating high school in 2003, I was eager to serve my country. Due to the fact that the president at that time, the honorable President Bush, was not accepting applications from untrained 18-uear-old men for his special task force, I figured the Marine Corps would be the next best option. After nearly a year, I completed all my entry-level training. From boot camp to my occupation training, I then returned to the quiet little nest that was Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. With no bad guys in site, I was far from any war going on at that time. Six years later, I found myself transiting to Iraq in hopes to finally do my part in this nation’s lengthy endeavor. By the time I arrived in 2009, the war in Iraq had transitioned from a constant parade of bombs, bullets and body bags, to humanitarian operations and skillful execution of removing the few remaining Marine Corps combat elements still in country. After nine months, I didn’t fire a single shot. Less than five months after returning home, I was back in the dirt. This time, a mountainous environment, full of rocks, hills and mortar fire. In less than a month, the enemy was engaging our camp and our Marine units all over Helmand province. After eight months in country, I had traveled, patrolled and shook hands with Marines, locals, and other service members in three different provinces of Afghanistan. By October, my time was up. The deployment was far from over, but my last patrol landed my bloody body on a casualty evacuation helicopter bound for the hospital and within weeks, I was stateside. After nearly a month, doctors determined I would lose my left eye, my right would suffer irreversible damage, leaving me legally blind, and my rockin’ hot body was reduced to mush, simply because they didn’t have a decent gym at the naval hospital I was currently posted at. By 2013 I was cleared medically and physically fit, with limitations, to return to the fleet and continue work as a United States Marine. It was not until 2016 that I met the fourth love of my life, a Rottweiler by the name of Dillon, who would one day become my companion, and service dog. Currently in the second phase of training (advanced obedience), Dillon and I have come a long way. He is a bit unpredictable, but I love that about him. Thank you PAWS Training Centers for helping me to get my dog trained. I couldn’t do it without you.
It was a long and arduous journey which brought Parclete and I together. I’m not talking about my journey of trauma, but the difficulty of convincing military medical to provide the needed endorsement for a service dog. Their argument was that a service dog would hinder my recovery from PTSD, depression, and an anxiety disorder. Their remedy involved a cocktail of drugs to deal with the difficulties of fitting back into society. That transition loomed ever so more daunting on the fast approach of my retirement and return to civilian life. I knew the struggle was worth it the first time I met my soon to be service dog.
Paraclete and her sister came charging into the room for the “interview.” It wasn’t long before personalities, temperaments, and treatment needs began to match. Jade, Paraclete’s sister, was task oriented, always looking for the next “mission” racing around the room and searching for adventure. Paraclete was more relational. She stayed close to me, checked me out with her sensitive nose, brushed against me and sat on the floor at my feet with her paw on my knee. After taking the girls in and out of the room and discussing my needs, it became transparent that Paraclete was the companion for me. By the evening, we were off for a two-week trek together to the northern woods of Michigan. The two of us spent our time in joint solitude bonding on snowy walks and warm campfires. By the end of the trip we were inseparable.
Now, every time I move from one room to another, my “white shadow” trails behind me and finds a comfortable spot nearby to lay and chew on the toy she carries with her. When Paraclete and I sit in silence and I stare into her eyes an “old soul” looks back, as if she understands the journey that brought us together. She nuzzles my hand with her nose or sets her jaw on my knee looking up with longing eyes.
Paraclete is always present. She guides me through crowds and is a friend in the midst of strangers. I cannot imagine life without her.
Honorary Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, was a rescue dog from the NCIS agents at Cherry Point Marine Corps Base in North Carolina. He had been a part of a sting in another state and was brought back to North Carolina in hopes of finding a home to adopt him. He was skinny, full of flees, scared and just a mess the day I met him but I looked into his eyes and knew right away he had been blessed by God to do something more than just be a pet. Gibbs is a Llewellyn English Setter and is bred to hunt quail and pheasant. I did train Gibbs to hunt (or shall I say he trained me) and he loves to be in the woods. But even though we would go hunting there was always something very different about Gibbs and his reaction to people. At the time I did not know exactly what it was.
Then one day in early 2013 both Gibbs and I suffered a severe traumatic betrayal. The abuse was so severe that it triggered panic attacks and severe PTSD symptoms. I did not understand what was happening to me. But Gibbs did. I had never had these symptoms ever in my life before and for the past year I am symptom free. But Gibbs understood and what he did was both overwhelming and miraculous at the same time.
Gibbs would work his miracles on me in order to bring me through the episodes. He could be in one room and me in another and he would sense it coming on. He would be with me in a flash. I would wake up from a nightmare in the night to find him laying across me. I was ashamed of these symptoms so I didn’t tell anyone that they were happening. It was months before I was able to see my doctor. My doctor recognized it right away and of course prescribed medication and counseling. I refused the medication and was determined to find another way. With Gibbs by my side we began a walking/jogging/praying program. The two of us benefited greatly from our exercise program. On these walks I decided that I could not keep this blessing to myself. Gibbs should help others who had these symptoms. Gibbs’ “heeling paws” was a gift from God and others should have an opportunity to meet him and feel his love. PAWS Training Centers was recommended and the rest is history.
Gibbs was accepted into the Wounded Warrior Battalion East as a therapy dog to work in Wounded Warriors groups who suffer from various symptoms. It’s been almost two years working with Wounded Warriors and he never ceases to amaze me how they will open up to Gibbs and tell him how they are feeling. Gibbs is invited to many events and is truly a loved by all he meets. He is a real star At WWBN East not only for the Wounded Warriors but for the staff as well. Everyone loves Gibbs. I’m so proud of him.
Gibbs and I train all the time in different public places who allow him to come. He will always pick out a complete stranger and want to spend time with that person based on his reactions and what he does I know there is something that the person needs. When I briefly tell the story, the person usually drops to their knees to hug and talk to Gibbs. He never fails. They are always grateful and thank him for the love he shows them.
Thank you to Gibbs’ lead trainer Rob and also to Morgan who was there in the beginning for Gibbs too. Rob and Morgan were awesome, understanding and persistent but most of all patient and reassuring. Without their knowledge and training experience Gibbs’ gifts would have never been fully developed or been able to help so many wonderful people. I am truly grateful for what PAWS Training Centers did for us both.
Thank you for everything you guys have done to help us train Lucky to be the most perfect dog for our family…especially Matthew. The joy he brings us everyday is endless. Kaitlyn was amazing. She gave me the confidence and patience I never thought I had to deal with training a dog and especially bringing him out and about in public (that was extremely hard for me to overcome). She was always understanding and accommodating with my schedule and my crazy life with three kids. I can’t thank you guys enough for everything.
My daughter Julia was in need of a service dog in 2013 to provide emergency medical response for seizure and brain hemorrhage. PAWS Training Centers worked with us to locate the perfect dog for the job and train her. Labradoodle Harper had been raised in a women’s prison service dog training program, and had already received obedience training. Before she could become a service dog for Julia, Harper needed to learn to alert strangers and/or push a button on an emergency medical alert device in instances where Julia lost consciousness, both in public and home alone. Harper also needed Public Access Training to be certified as a service dog. She needed to demonstrate the commands she had already learned in prison in unique public environments.
Once Harper was transferred from prison, her training was started in the trainer’s home. Harper stayed with our trainer, Gemma, for several weeks while she worked with her daily. This was the most efficient and cost effective way for Harper to learn what she needed to do. Gemma kept us in the loop by sending us videos of her progress. We saw Gemma take many a fall in stores and other public places to ensure that Harper would respond appropriately by running to find help and by pressing the emergency alert button. In the meantime, Julia and I Skyped with David Burry and met him at a mall with his demonstration service dog for our training, because we had even more to learn than Harper!
After Harper’s training in Gemma’s home was complete, Gemma brought Harper to us to start lessons. Harper needed to perform the same cues for 14-year-old Julia (and her mother) as she had for the professional dog trainers. The trainers went with us in public places, the zoo, and our home until we felt comfortable.
Along the way, we’ve been able to participate in intensive Public Access Training and service dog certification. Six months after receiving Harper in our home, she and Julia were certified as a service dog and handler pair, and they have since recertified. Harper goes to school with Julia and can accompany us everywhere. I can run out to the grocery store alone and not worry every moment. As Julia grows into her late teens and 20’s and becomes more independent, I can feel confident knowing she’ll be safe on her own. With Harper, Julia’s freedom is limited only by her desires, not by her illness. PAWS Training Centers’ training of Harper and Julia have made this possible.
Jennifer, Sparky and I are in love! We are a very happy couple! Thank you for everything you have done to make this happen for me!!!! THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY LOVE FILLED HEART!! — Cindy.
I just want to say that Gemma Soberano and all the trainers are awesome. I have taken Goose to two events this week – one to a pet store with 50 jumping, barking, lunging dogs and puppies and though Goose looked at them he stayed in a heel command and totally focused on me. Thank you!! – Shelly
Well it has been a very “QUIET” night here at our household!!! One QUIET command when the deer showed up and no correction needed. The begining of a bark fest at something outside, one correction needed….haven’t heard a peep from either of them since!!! Thank you!!!! – Mary
Well yesterday was a CLASSIC Red Letter Day for Vixen!! Dave took Vixen to the Doggie park, let her go, and no incidents occurred! RECAP: No one was lunged at, barked at, growled at, jumped on, or ATTACKED!! Vixen has a great time and actually went home tired and happy…Yahoo Vixen!!…BRAVO, Dave and Ashley, truly they are working miracles with her!! XX Thanks, from Vixen and her grateful mommy Cia
There once was a rescue puppy named Charlie who came into our hearts and home at two months old. He was so sweet, cuddly, and small. As he grew he was so much fun but a little too exuberant and with a tail like a whip. He could not calm himself when company came over. My friends and family would yell, “Ouch!” as his tail whipped their legs. When we went for a walk with Charlie he would drag us down the street. Also, as we drew near to home, he would spin out of his harness and run around or just lie down and refuse to move. By this time Charlie was a year and a half old, 75 pounds, and powerfully built. I was not going to be able to carry him home if he stopped on one of his walks, as he was apt to do. We tried everything from various books including using a water gun and treats, but nothing worked. Oh boy, what was I going to do? I couldn’t enjoy my family when they came over. And by this time Charlie was banned from going to their houses.
My daughter gave me an article to read in the West Chester Times about PAWS Training Centers. We set up an evaluation for Charlie at our house with David and Ashley. Next, the lessons began and in six short weeks, what an amazing difference! Week one was heel training. Charlie started out good but when he got near home he lay on his back and refused to move. But David had him get up and continue heel walking some more. Amazingly, he did it. At David’s suggestion we set up a kennel for Charlie in our family room to be his “happy place”. By week four, Charlie went into his kennel for David on command. He was very resistant at first, but then he did it within ten minutes. My husband and I could not believe it. We thought, “no way is he going to go in the kennel and stay until he is given the release command”, but he did. Wow! After each week Charlie got better and better and my husband and I got better and better at being consistent with him. We are so thankful for all the help and training from David and Ashley. Not just for Charlie, but also for us. They have a natural talent with dogs and people. They are both very knowledgeable, kind and patient.
Now there is a lovable, sweet, big dog named Charlie who is a joy to take for a walk. He knows a “heel” walk and a “let’s go” walk. When company comes over he is still very happy but with his mastery of his new commands his behavior is much better. The children love to play ball with him. He is so much fun. My family can’t believe he is the same dog. Oh my, Charlie has one big happy family!
Thanks so much David and Ashley!
Terry and Rich
Hello friends! It has been 2 weeks since Jasper has been home. I have to say that PAWS Training Center has improved our quality of life. I know that’s saying a lot, but the whole family is less stressed and enjoying more activities together. We had a follow up visit from the Chester County crew to train ME. All is great. I took Jasper to the dog park yesterday and he is such a joy. We walk out the door heeling (bolting was his favorite!). He comes to me when it’s time to leave the dog park and tries really hard at not being ‘Tigger’.
Thank you guys so much for all that you have done for Jasper and the family. Gemma you are truly great at what you do!
Dear David, Ashley and Brooke,
Many, many thanks for the training sessions. We learned so much and had so much fun at the same time. Katie is now fun to walk and we enjoy each other so much more. Today we were in the garden and Katie wanted to play and run around as she did with Brooke. She even brought me a stick! And when I called “here” she came and put her cold little nose right on my finger. She greets my clients and they all notice a big difference. I think she knows she has graduated because she surprised me by going out by herself when I left the door open for her. The training was really well worth it! In fact I would be interested in doing the social therapy training. Please send info about that.
Once again, thanks so much and when you are in the area, please come for a romp in the garden.
Katie sends Brooke a big hug and a whoof. Me too, Sallie
We just recently completed the in-home training, offered by David & Ashley, with our 4 year old Pomeranian, Cas. The training was outstanding, and worth every penny. Cas is a lovable dog, but had some bad habits, such as jumping up on people, not coming when called, not staying, to name a few. We had begun Cas’s training as a puppy at Pet Smart, and followed up there with intermediate training. I worked diligently on the skills taught at Pet Smart, and the trainers were helpful, but the small group lessons, do not hold a candle to the one on one training that David and Ashley did with us. We were shown how to get Cas to do what we want, and were able to practice and mimic, while they were in our home. The lessons left Cas and myself both exhausted. The results were all we had hoped for. My husband and I both spent time daily practicing what we learned, and Cas loved it.
David and Ashley were always punctual, attentive to our needs, and encouraged us to call or email whenever we had any questions about Cas’s training. If I ever have a puppy again, I would skip the small group training, and start out early with David and Ashley. It’s wonderful having a well-trained dog, who is a pleasure to have out in public and around people and animals with no worries.
Thank You!!!! Tom, Colleen & Cas