Subject: Milo
From: Etna Coleman <>
Date: Tue, June 16, 2015 7:27 am
To: Elizabeth Morris <>

Hi Elizabeth,
I just thought of emailing you again.  Every time Milo does something cute I want you to know .   
This morning I was sitting in my studio painting and saw Milo jump off the sofa and run to stand in front of the TV watching something.  I got up to see what he was so interested in and it was Dr. Pol.  He especially likes horses.  Did he have a strong bond with your horse?  He likes to watch dogs on TV, or any animal, but he especially gets excited with horses and may even talk to them.  
He is just a sweetheart.  I'm remembering back when I asked if I could have a poodle, you looked and you said none of the pups would make a good service dog, but you did have a golden mix that was sweet and very loving.  I told you I really wanted a Terrier. My question:  Is this the dog I finally ended up with?  If so, I think it’s a “God thing.”
I have Milo’s song now.  (Each Terrier I've owned had a special song I use to sing.  "Little Red Riding Hood" I’d sing to Limerick, and "Bad To The Bone"  was for Donegal.) So I've been looking for a special song for Milo.  Last week I heard James Taylor sing "You've Got A Friend" and I knew this was my and Milo's song.  I just change the words in parts to I've Got A Friend." It's perfect for Milo and I sing it to him often.  He is my friend and I am his.
When I’m down and troubled
And I need some love and care
And nothing, nothing is going right
I’ll close my eyes and think of you
And soon you will be there
To brighten up even my darkest night
I’ll just call out your name
And I know wherever you are
You’ll come running to see me again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All I’ve got to do is call
And you'll be there
Yes you will
I’ve got a friend
I will be flying to Boston for a knee replacement in August.   I’m looking into airlines that are particularly good with service animals.  I know Milo is too large to sit at my feet, however I’m hopeful to find one that will accommodate him in the cabin.  We’ll see.

​​Tom with his Service Dog: Zac

Service Dogs helping with Tourette Syndrome.

Recent trends in the treatment of Tourette Syndrome are shifting from use of psychotherapeutic medications to behavioral modification therapies to avoid the many side effects associated with anti-psychotic drugs. One particular therapy providing benefit to an increasing number of individuals is employment of service dogs to help manage and  control the symptoms of Tourettes. 

As stated by the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), a not-so-commonly known definition of duties which service dogs can perform, includes “helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.” 

What “destructive behaviors” you might ask? Shortly before I received my service dog (Zac) from “Service Dogs for Independence,” one particularly persistent tic was causing throat pain, sometimes so debilitating, I was unable to speak louder than a quiet whisper. Inspection under general anesthesia revealed moderate to severe inflammation to the area surrounding my vocal chords. Concern was that long term exposure (to the tic) may cause scarring or other irreparable damage. Although the symptoms had persisted a year, remarkably, the pain/discomfort caused by the tic completely resolved within two months of receiving Zac into my household. Other tics, over the years, have included abdominal muscle contractions, sometimes so severe, it would send increased blood pressure to the upper body causing eye spasms and/or headache. Concern is that I may soon be diagnosed with glaucoma and there is speculation whether my tics have been a contributing factor. Other individuals I’ve known with Tourette Syndrome have suffered upper spine injuries (due to repetitive “head whip”), blunt trauma/bruising (due to the repetitive tapping/hitting/punching of a particular area of the body), and tic-related hearing loss. These manifestations all show the potentially destructive behaviors that may develop as a result of Tourette Syndrome. 

There is also the question of “What task my Service Dog performs?” The official words are “tactile stimulation” or “tactile distraction”. Simply put -- the focus I place on the dog inhibits and reduces my symptoms. There’s a common misunderstanding regarding the nature of Tourette Syndrome where it is believed the condition is related to having high anxiety levels or being “anxious” or “nervous” individuals. The reality is that tics can be just as prevalent spending a day at the beach and conversely absent under some very stressful conditions “if ” those conditions incite, involve, or “bring out” a concerted amount of focus and attention by the individual with Tourettes. It’s the “action and play” of focus and attention which provides significant (though temporary) relief from tics and the tactile stimulation from a service dog is one of the sources which can cause the effect. 

Other activities where “focus and attention” mitigates symptoms of Tourette Syndrome include: 
1) Giving technical presentations or engaging in focused discussions 
a. Discussions off-topic, not focused, or “social” makes tics worst 
2) Working tasks at the office 
a. Taking breaks to eat or “surf the internet” relieves the sense of focus, & therefore increases tics 
3) Participating in any number of sport activities or hobbies (piano, scuba diving, flying, running) 

Though none of these activities carry long term effects, they all provide some temporary relief from Tourette Syndrome -- as do my efforts taking care and interacting with Zac. Do I absolutely need a service dog to function in life? Probable not. But if my “tic levels” are at record low and exposure to the more “destructive tics” is reduced, there is certainly some health benefits being realized​

​FREEDOM: ease or facility of movement or action: to enjoy the freedom of living.

As I thought what to write of my first weeks with Phoenix I thought of Freedom. The training she learned fits my disability more than you can imagine. Since my accident in January 2011 I have been so restricted as to what I can do. Before the accident I worked 40 hours a week, ran 3 miles a night with my dog, puppy-sat on the weekends for extra money and cared for my terminally ill son.  It felt like no problem- it was my life, always on the go.

That January morning change my life in every way. They told my family I was not going to make it- when I proved that wrong, they said I would never walk again. With my family and daughter pushing and pushing, the year and a half of Physical Therapy I finally stood upright and with the help of a walker and wheelchair I saw the world eye to eye.

My next journey was to rid myself of the walker- doing research on Mobility Dogs I found Service Dogs for Independence in Tucson Arizona, I made contact and the team working closely with me, keeping me updated on her progress, sending me videos and grooming her to perfection.

Don't get me wrong we are adjusting and learning our dance together- I make many blunders but she is always there to catch my misstep and spends a lot of time in the "brace" position so I never hit the ground, not once. Phoenix always comes when called, even when she's napping, helps me bring myself to an upright position and I sleep so well every night knowing that she is right next to me and if I need to get up she is off the bed and ready to break before I even say anything.

The story I feel will just about sum everything up as far as our relationship is going: since my move to Arizona 4 months ago I have been  busy trying to make my house my home. Last week I was hanging pictures with a level, pencil and hammer. Phoenix sat just tilting her head back and forth watching me, on my 3rd picture I reached back for the hammer and it was gone, I put down the pencil and nail to look for it---- to my amazement and surprise there it was in Phoenix's mouth, just waiting for me. We worked together for another hour and hung all the pictures I wanted. 

My Mom always said that every situation has a hero, Phoenix is mine.

Many thanks and blessings to the team and Elizabeth for working so hard to answer my questions and prayers and training the best of the best.

With Love,

Noreen Kirk-Tardif

We received Tucker, a seven month old fully trained Golden/Doodle, two years ago and the quality of our 35 year old daughter's life has been immeasurably enhanced by this service dog.  He has been the loyal companion who protects Michelle, keeps her moving when she needs that extra stimulation, and loves her unconditionally. When the "working vest" is on, Tucker stays on point making sure Michelle is safe. He is a wonderful listener, but does most of his work by instinct as Michelle offers little guidance and speaks very softly. He often seems to anticipate her next move long before we do.In addition, Tucker is a precious addition to our family.  His loving nature and constant smile makes everyone feel great. We recently visited Michelle's grandfather at the retirement facility where he now resides. Tucker, at this time assuming the role of a therapy dog, warmed hearts and evoked many smiles from the residents. Michelle was thrilled to allow the residents a little time with her dear companion. To date, Tucker has made multiple cross country flights and a couple of long car trips. He is always a trooper, ready to go anytime!Tucker is undeniably much more than a service dog. He has bridged the gap between Michelle and people who would otherwise not initiate conversation with her.  Because initiation is a big area of concern, this has proven to be an added bonus that we never anticipated. It seems that he is always surprising us.  He is the comic relief, the loyal friend, the constant companion who has completed Michelle's life.We are forever grateful to Elizabeth and her wonderful staff at Service Dogs for Independence, not only for a professionally trained service dog, but continual support in enhancing Michelle’s handling of him.
Elaine Rea
Scottsdale, AZ

Nov 12, 2013
Hi there! I just wanted to give you an update on Charlie. He is doing well, I am 100% positive that he is bonded with me. He follows me everywhere, even when his vest is off and he's totally engaged in chewing his bone. He is doing better with picking up things. Today my earring fell out of my ear and he picked it up for me. The other day my make up cover fell under the counter and then I also dropped my comb, he picked both of them up and I was able to grab them from him. I am working on pulling his head toward my lap so he doesn't drop it on the floor and this is working well.
I wanted to share with you how well my little buddy is doing.
Thanks! Erica Follow  Erica a story about a brave and wonderful young woman that not only has overcome the odds and has become a nurse ,a wife and soon to be mother. We wish Erica her family and her service dog Charlie a wonderful happy blessed life.

Service Dogs For Independence Training Dogs


I just wanted to tell you how in just a very short time Teddy has become such a perfect addition to our family. Within just a couple of days, Teddy has provided comfort, support, and love to Sam in a way I could never imagine. 
Sam struggles with his meltdowns and behavior issues with his autism and Teddy picked up on that almost right away. Public outings have always been a struggle for my son because of the stimulation. Teddy, without prompting, very gingerly will lay in  my son's lap and allow him to work out his meltdown. With my supervision, Sam will hug Teddy's head, bury his face in Teddy's fur, talk to him about his feelings (this is the FIRST time my son has used his words during meltdowns). Teddy will stay there until my son is calm and has come down from his meltdown and will stay within an arms reach of my son in the event that he needs support during our drive. 
Bolting has always been a struggle for my son as well as getting into the car. Teddy during walks will stay close to my son and if my son lets go of the leash will signal me and even will lay down until Sampson returns back to his side. My son is learning responsibility and caring for Teddy (at age 4). Getting into the car has been a struggle and now with Teddy here, Sampson will go to get in and if there is an issue, Teddy will halfway get in, and block the way out and give a gentle nudge to help Sam into his car seat so my son knows to sit in his seat and Teddy will assume his position at my son's feet. Teddy will remain there until my son is properly buckled and then Teddy will sit next to him in the car. 
With my son's severe Autism, Teddy in the few short days has helped reduce his meltdown times dramatically, has allowed us to go out in public together without the frequent sensory overload, has given my son confidence, and has given my son the feeling that he now has a friend there to listen to him. 
As a mother, I am tearfully overjoyed and grateful for what you have done. Teddy is perfect in every way. A true guardian angel. Teddy has even started to alert me to low blood sugars (something I didn't think was possible). 
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Stephani L. Morris
Thirty One Gifts 
Independent Consultant
phone: 517.945.8265

Cement City, MI - Sam and Teddy are best buddies.

In this Jackson County Home , a boy and his dog are constant companions.

But Sampson isn't an average four-year-old, and Teddy isn't a typical pet .

The one-year-old golden doodle is a service dog that helps Sam deal with autism.

"When he is having a hard time, Teddy will usually be able to pick up on that and help him through that process," says Sam's mom Stephani Morris.

When we first met Sam and his mom over one year ago, the family was on a mission to get a service dog to for Sam.

Their story tugged at the heart strings of viewers, and thanks to some generous donations, furry friend Teddy arrived in Cement City almost two months ago.

"The community is just rallying around you know children so that they can have a sustainable future," says his mom.

Teddy is with Sam all the time.

The golden doodle stops Sam from running off and keeps him calm with deep pressure hugs.

"You notice an overall calmness that we didn't have before," says Stephani.

A lot has changed in one year, instead of having a meltdown every 20 minutes, now Sam goes 4 or 5 hours without a tear.

"He's definitely calm, he uses his words more, he works through things more," says Sam's mom.

Sam's therapist Miss Sarah with the Comprehensive Speech and Therapy Center in Jackson calls Sam a fun, social little boy, who is making incredible progress.

"He comes to the clinic, and then we also come to the house, we go to the daycare a little bit as well. So, we try to see him in all those environments," says Sarah Johnson who is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

And come fall, Teddy will head to school at Lincoln Head Start with Sam.

Teddy is an educational tool that can bark back, and cuddle when Sam needs it. Going out in public is a challenge for Sam when his senses get overwhelmed.

"It gives Sam a chance to you know basically rub something, rub his fur or give him a hug or you know something like that to ground his senses," says mom Stephani.

But a service dog like Teddy doesn't come cheap, training and getting Teddy to Cement City cost over $10,000.

For Michigan kids 18 months to five-years-old, Medicaid covers autism therapy and services.

It's relief that helped make it possible for Sam's mom to quit her job and start working from home.

For a little boy so full of life, who loves to sing and conduct an interview or two, it's only fitting to have a puppy pal that can keep up.

For more on autism services for your child, contact your local Community Mental Health .

Date: Mon, Mar 16, 2015 3:56 pm
To: Liz Morris

Rachael & Roo
Roo has been nothing short of a blessing for me and my family. She has given me back something I thought I lost when I was diagnosed with epilepsy, my independence. Thanks to Roo, I was able to go off to college, get a job, and begin my life without my parents being concerned of what would happen if I had a seizure. Roo is a beloved addition to our family. With her goofy personality, crooked smile, and lovable eyes, she touches everyone she meets. When people meet her, they can't help but smile. She has helped me accept my disorder with understanding and hope. I thank God every day for bringing us together!

From: cindy hale <>
Date: Wed, April 15, 2015 3:43 pm
To: "" <>

Hi! I'm sorry it's been so long since I've sent you any info. Almost as soon as Maggie settled in I put her to work. Since I got her in mid-January I've been to the ER, had two surgeries, two MRIs and a CT scan, plus seven doctor appts. and numerous trips to the lab for blood draws.
Either my husband holds her while I have stuff done to me (like surgeries) or if I'm having a CT/MRI one of the techs takes her. 

Maggie has been in and out of so many elevators, been to the hospital several times, and sat in so many doctor offices... and she is always PERFECT. My doctors love her, too. In fact, my kidney doctor (he's a very quiet, gentle Asian) adores Maggie and usually spends more time with Maggie than with me!
Maggie adjusted to our other two dogs quickly. I've attached a photo taken a couple of weeks after I got Maggie; they're sitting together on the "dog couch" in our sun room. I no longer have to crate Maggie when I ride; I can just leave her and the Schnauzers in the sun room until I get home. I'm sure that one of the reason we have a happy dog family is because the Schnauzers had quite a bit of obedience training and we don't put up with any nonsense/aggressive behavior.
Meanwhile, Maggie has learned some new things. Although she has plenty of room to run around here, I know that even Caesar M. says to exercise dogs, and to try to think of exercises that use a dog's innate talents: what they were bred to do. So Maggie plays fetch with me, using a Kong or glow ball. As part of that, though, she had to learn the commands "bring it" (when I point to something particular, like the newspaper or a horse brush), "take" (when I hand her something I want her to carry) and of course, "drop" (so she lets go of what she has been carrying). Needless to say, we only "play" when she is NOT wearing her vest.
She has never, ever had a potty accident anywhere. She really seems to want to hold it all in if possible until she can do her thing in the doggy potty area; each of our dogs has their own spot. 
Honestly, Maggie has been a real blessing in my life. We adore each other. Sometimes I can't believe that I have her in my life. I'm still not quite sure how I ended up with her, but I pray that everyone involved is blessed, also. 
As soon as I feel a bit better, I'll gladly write an essay with more/better photos for your website. 
Cindy Hale

Leo and his owner Jack Ward.

Leo is a Golden Doodle Vision Impairment dog that lives with his owner in New Hamphire

Leo and Jack are a great team.

For security reason their family has asked not for ther e-mail to be present however they can be contacted personally . Pease ask for thier information if you need them for a reverance.

Date: Wed, September 30, 2015 10:29 am
To: info <>

Just a quick update. Stella and I have had a super busy summer of
camping, school, and even boating! Stella is a wonderful and such an
asset in my life. I would say that I feel bad for taking from you, but
honestly I don't. She has been such a blessing; I can't image not having
her in my life.

Enjoy the photos.

Ryan Mitchell

The weekend before school started we participated in our 1st Taekwondo back to school Tournament. Evan has grown in ability and confidence and feels safe with Ender watching & waiting right off the mat while Evan participates. I've attached a picture of Ender sporting our TKD studio's logo, watching his boy. The fact that Ev can cope with the crowds and noise and excitement of such an event is a huge success!

Before classes resumed, we met Evan's 5th grade teachers and he and Ender were able to practice their schedule and see their new rooms.
On the 1st day of school Matt & I, alongside Ender and Evan, talked to all the 5th graders and teachers about Ender's role as a working dog and how he is able to help Evan with Autism. We are thankful for his peers who are open and accepting of Service Dog rules, for fabulous teachers, and a school that has actively engaged with us during this process of assimilating a SD on their campus. The special education teacher told me that we have set a good precedent, we have "set the bar high" for the districts understanding of a true SD and the structure & discipline of incorporating the animal into the daily school life of a child.
I wanted to pass this praise on to you and your organization. You are able to produce high quality Service Dogs and with us following your detailed instructions about adherence to daily schedule, keeping up his training,etc. - well, I just cannot say enough about what Ender has done for Evan and how thankful we are!
Their 1st week as 5th graders went well and we are ready for the rest of the school year. Ev had a tough moment with all the anxiety that the changes of the new school year bring but he was able to articulate to Matt (rather than responding in a non-productive manner) that he needed Ender. Evan sat with his dog and let Ender help him calm. This, too, is a big success in Ev's ability to cope!
Ender is a gift!

Subject: Jessie and Mo

Hey Elizabeth
Jessie and Mo started middle school this year! It has been a super smooth transition. He helped her survive a psychotic reaction to reaction in April and she is now coming off those meds. Today we went to a fall festival, parade and pumpkin farm. Their bond is so strong now. Thank you for choosing Mo for Jessie !
Stacey Johnson 

So it as now been 5 weeks of dog ownership and Keeva has been great!  Wonderful dog, well behaved, and bonding with the family.  Still having some bonding issues with Grace in particular (as you observed the first couple of days with us), but that situation is coming along slowly.  And, as we get used to each other, Keeva's personality is coming out.   She is a great companion who tries to please as she climbs into our laps when we sit on the floor.  She likes being around us, as she takes up floor space (generally in the middle of everything like a big bear rug.
We continue to maintain her training inasmuch we take her out in public, with or without Grace, but always with her vest on, several times a week and go through her exercises when taking her for walks (sit, stay, have her follow for a short way off leash, catch the baby with Grace).  Her favorite toy thus far is a tennis ball which she'll be getting a whole lot more use of in the near future since we'll be getting a fence in a couple of weeks.  She'll be able to run to her heart's content.  
Otherwise, hope all is well on your end.  As I type this note, Keeva is lying on my feet, keeping them warm in the kitchen.  Will send a couple of photos in a bit, but you are also welcome to look at Rosemary's or my Facebook pages.  Both of us have 'liked" your page, Service Dogs for Independence, so you can find our pages that way.
Thanks again so much for everything.  And if you ever get back out this way again, business or pleasure, please don't hesitate to give us a ring!
Rosemary, Fred, Grace, and Keeva


  Re: K


TERESA HUNLEY <> (Add as Preferred Sender)  

Date: Sun, Jan 24, 2016 8:27 am
To: Sd4i <>

From Subject (Thread Messages) Date Size

Hello Elizabeth,
This is Teresa Hunley. I was wondering how to go about getting a new vest for Keeva? She has gained a bit of weight and grown a bit and her old vest is getting a bit snug. Only 5 lbs. I'm not exactly sure how to measure her. She is doing an exceptional job for Tiffany. Tiffany has been able to get a job. At first she didn't want to take Keeva to work with her, but now her and Keeva go to work everyday. I am forever grateful to SDFI for all your work with Keeva. It has greatly impacted Tiffany's life.
Teresa Hunley
Sent from my iPhone

Thank you for all you have done for making Nathanial's life and future easier.

Nathanial had a pette mal seizure. Max prior to that was watching him intently and would not leave his side. Max laid right down next to Nathanial and licked his face to simulate him.

We are in awe.

Blessings to you


Service Dogs For Independence

Service Dogs For Independence  Service Dogs , Types of service dogs. Testimonial

I just wanted to update you on Karmma and Ken. As his mobility and ptsd dog she has been a god sent as have you for training such a sweet and living girl. Ken has made incredibly hard adjustments thanks to Karmma. We have moved to the coast here in Oregon and i will just let the pics speek for them selves. Thank you so much!

Date: Sat, Mar 26, 2016 6:39 am
To: "<>" <>

From Subject (Thread Messages) Date Size

Ender is still going strong thanks to your quality training. Evan has exposed him to grocery shopping, church, Tae Kwon Do, and he met his veterinarian today. At TKD practice he was vigilant in watching Evan and so relieved when Evan was back with him. At the vet's office he let Evan comfort him and Ev responded well to Ender's needs. Ender was perfect even with noisy dogs in the waiting area.

​Before and after I meet SDFI and my new Battle Buddy! It took 8 month’s to finely wright about myself Battle and SDFI.


Thank You!



I’ve been traumatized, desensitized hospitalized and institutionalized.

I’ve seen chaos with these eyes.

Sitting here being institutionalized for the entire thing’s that has traumatized my eternal state of mind.


One day I will find some peace of mind, and deal with my regrets. But right now, it’s a big challenge to cope with my regrets. I’ll; take a chance and make a bet with hopes that one day I’ll forget the thing’s I’ve been through and thing’s I seen. Wishing my life was just a bad dream.


It tears at my sprite and rips up it’s being. I just want to feel once more like a human being! I have no regart, I have no feeling, and my heart is separating from my physical being.


The life seen, Life I’ve lived has made my living depressing. I close my eyes; I can see the thing’s that slipped away from me. So, here I lay just one more day, as time seems to fade away.


I reached out to Liz, SDFI and told her about my needs and I ended help to overcome some grief.

But I await my eternal fate, I will see one day that life is a great and hopefully overcome this mental state.


As month’s gone by since I received my Service dog BATTLE.I still have times where rave when I hear something creep, but I NO longer sleep with a knife under my pillow and a gun next to me. SDFI gave me a second chance in life I never thought I had, until Battle came into my life and deals with my PTSD and me. I never thought a dog can do so much for a person that’s been been dealing with Life after war, PTSD, TBI, Guilt of being alive with all the anger building inside me.


Living with Battle took me out of self-isolation I’ve been in over a year. Liz, CEO of SDFI hand picked a dog for me after she got to know mw and I was and still am amazed how she matched me up with the perfect dog that has the same altitude like me.


I learned that no one could put a price tag on a SD from SDFI that can make you live again. I was told years ago to get a PTSD service dog but never thought a SD could change my life so I did all I know and that’s (Deploy). I’ve been on 24 deployments and over 300 missions. If I only took the advice years ago from my DR I would have if I only knew the In-pack a SD really can do for someone, I would have reached out to SDFI years ago.


My SD is named BATTLE.I named him that because I know while in public or anywhere in life he is watching my six at all times. I know longer have to do that. He mean’s as much as my human Battle Brother’s that made it home or was KIA.


It took about a year for SDFI to train and to make sure that he was the perfect fit for me. I had other options like “Pit’s for vet’s “and a few other that were able to provide me with a SD within 3 month’s. After looking into firm after firm. SDFI was the only firm that I found that trained within and if the dog picked for your need’s did not have the “Natural talent “they would not be used because you can’t force a dog to do a job they are not meet to do. When I was in the Army, we deployed with a dog that could do what we did, lane sea or air. I was very impressed with the dog’s I deployed with. I never thought my SD BATTLE was smarter then people I know.


I told SDFI I would wright about my experience with Battle when I was ready. Here I am 8 months later, let thing’s come out of me I never spoke of before. It took a good 7 month’s to really know BATTLE and I found thing’s about myself I never thought I would want or even had any interest in until Liz informed me I had to review a few class about basic training & how to look after a SD.I went to medical school and became a PA “That was my MOS in the Army “Front line medical “My intent was to complete my studies and become an Anesthesiologist year’s ago but it never happened.


What did happen is after watching the videos/ classes about dog training, I took it to another level and won’t to become a K-9 Instructor & advanced Battles’ skills even more they were.


Just make sure when you get your service dog, don’t think the training stops because that is not true. Once you bond with your dog during training, he or she will understand who is the ALPHA leader in the pack. If you follow all SDFI instructions, you will have NO issues.,



When I meet Liz & David in Chicago I felt like I knew them but never seen them. Liz is very soft spooking and no matter how many mistakes you make, she will repeat them until she feel’s you’re ready. You might not get your SD the first night but that’s ok. That happened to me and I’m glad it did because I was not ready until day two.


David however was Battles MAIN trainer. When I seen the respect Battle had for him & I was shocked. David is a TRUE professional and showed me things about Battle I did not learn in a textbook. I was surprised David and I hit it off from the begging and with every question, he had the awnanser to. I had a great experience with the both of them. And till this day, if I had a question 8 months or years down the road, they would help me!


 I know this was long, but I hope anyone in the need of a service dog can help them like Battle has done and continues too do. All of SDFI Thank You for giving me my life back.





By BILL COATES Dispatch Valley Life Editor 

Tyler Ashcroft met Zoey at the Casa Grande PetSmart in March. 

Tyler is an active and outgoing 4-year-old; Zoey is a female goldendoodle, half golden retriever and half standard poodle. It was their first meeting, and Zoey smelled trouble. 

Tyler’s mother, Rochelle Ashcroft, recalled the moment. 

“She actually alerted us to a seizure,” she said. 

Her husband, Kendall, finished the thought: “She would paw at Tyler and she would paw at the trainer.”

It was just what Zoey was training for. When her training’s complete, she will become Tyler’s seizure response dog, alerting Tyler and his parents to the onset of epileptic seizures.

At PetSmart, Tyler experienced an absence seizure, where he simply “zones out” for brief periods. But he has grand mal seizures as well, which the Mayo Clinic website describes as featuring “loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions.” 

Responding to Tyler’s epilepsy could be a matter of life or death. When he was 2, doctors said he was at risk for SUDEP, short for short for sudden unexplained death in epilepsy. 

Kendall and Rochelle, both 26, had taken Tyler in for examination after noticing he slept throughout the day. They learned he had been having seizures at night, depriving him of sleep. 

“We started seeing the seizures when he was awake,” Kendall said.

Kendall works as a corrections lieutenant in Florence. Rochelle stays home with Tyler, who is a bundle of energy with a lot of medical needs. It’s not just his epilepsy. He has a genetic condition that leaves him unable to digest food properly and convert it to energy. Most of his nutrition is delivered directly to his stomach from a tube extending from a pouch hidden in a small backpack. Tyler always looks as if he’s ready for a hike. 

The nutrition can be controlled: the seizures are more difficult. They’re not easily predicted, and Tyler needs constant watching. 

“Tyler’s unable to be left alone,” Rochelle said. “And he’s coming to the age where he wants to be in his room and left alone. Having Zoey will give him more freedom.” 

Zoey is still in training in Tucson, where Elizabeth Morris founded Service Dogs for Independence in 1998. Before that, Morris showed dogs at American Kennel Club dog shows.

When Morris’s 8-year-old nephew was diagnosed with a genetic disorder – one similar to Tyler’s – she tried to find a service dog for him. She quickly hit a dead end. Nobody was willing to train dogs for young children. 

So she took training classes and began to train dogs herself. Morris has trained some 130 service dogs to date and has about 30 in training at the moment. She works with another trainer. 

On April 29, Morris paid the Ashcrofts a visit. She brought Zoey with her. 

Many goldendoodles have the light brown coat of a golden retriever. Zoey has more of a poodle look, with gray-black and slightly curled fur. 

Zoey was going to stay with Tyler and his family for the next two weeks as Morris traveled out of state. It was Zoey’s first time at the Ashcrofts’. During her stay, she would get acquainted with what will be her new home, and she could start bonding with Tyler. 

Zoey sat next to Morris. Tyler sat on the floor next to Zoey. He reached out and gave Zoey a pet on the head and – at his mother’s urging – declared: “Good dog!” 

They were off to a good start. 

Then Tyler gave Zoey a tug on a short leash, trying to bring her closer. It was something of a rough tug, but Zoey went along. The dog had the temperament to take it all in without a fuss. 

Zoey showed the makings of a service dog early on. She came from a litter of 10 pups, Morris said. Only five made the cut to be service dogs. 

“There are … 18 tests they have to pass before I’ll consider them for service dogs,” Morris said. 

The rest go to families as pets, she said. 

Response dogs are trained to recognize the scent emitted by the body of an oncoming seizure. The dogs, with their incredible gift for smell, are trained to react to it. They paw the person having the seizure, and they’re trained to find somebody else and paw that person. 

In Tyler’s case, Zoey would alert his parents to a seizure, tracking them down in another room if necessary. 

Response dogs can detect seizures minutes and even hours before they occur, Morris said. 

Dogs in training are exposed to samples from mouth swabs, collected during a seizure and sent to Morris. 

“Training for a seizure disorder is about the same as training drug-sniffing dogs,” Morris said. 

Talented breeds 

Goldendoodles are among the half-dozen different breeds Morris trains as service dogs. Other breeds include Labrador retrievers, German shepherds and even shih tzus. 

Shih tzus, Morris said, are intelligent and are trained as therapy dogs. They can provide comfort for children with post-traumatic stress disorder. Morris also trains dogs for the blind, hearing impaired and people with autism. 

Goldendoodles are intelligent themselves, with a temperament to match. It’s a combination of the breeds: poodles are ranked second on the IQ pecking order, just behind border collies, and golden retrievers are among the top five. 

Though headquartered in Tucson, Service Dogs for Independence trains dogs for placement throughout the United States as well as Canada. 

The Ashcrofts learned about Morris’s service dogs from Kendall’s brother. 

Brian and Stephanie Ashcroft have a 4-year-old daughter, Clara, born nine days apart from Tyler. She has many of the same medical issues. 

Clara’s family lives in San Diego. Her father serves in the Navy, and her mother stays home and cares for her, but Clara has Rose to watch over her as well. 

Rose is a goldendoodle trained by Morris. She came into the home of the Ashcrofts in October. Brian and Stephanie learned about Service Dogs for Independence after asking around, seeking references. 

Bonding between the dog and child can take from 30 to 60 days, Morris said. 

For Rose, it did not take that long, Stephanie said. 

“From the minute she was dropped off here, Rose attached to Clara,” she said. 

Rose does more than alert the family to Clara’s epilepsy episodes. She also comforts Clara following a seizure. 

Sometimes Clara has leg tremors, Stephanie said. When she does, Rose “puts her paws on her legs and her head in her lap and keeps Clara calm.” 

Rose works as a therapy dog, too. Clara gets anxious in crowds, and Rose helps her deal with that. 

“She’s trained, if my daughter gets anxious, to pull her away from the crowd,” Stephanie said. “And she blocks people from getting too close to my daughter.” 

The bonding between dog and child is free of charge, but service dogs themselves don’t come cheap. There’s the expense of acquiring the dog as well as training, which can take up to a year, Morris said. Service Dogs for Independence seizure response dogs carry a price tag of $10,500. And that’s a bargain. According to an August 2009 New York Times article, service dogs can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000. 

Raising the money 

Still, for families like the Ashcrofts – in Casa Grande and San Diego – it’s a lot of money. They’re both single-income households. And there are the expenses involved in their children’s treatment. Even with insurance, travel involved with special care has cut into the household budget, Kendall said. 

Stephanie in San Diego said they raised money for Rose in any number of ways. 

“We raised it from refunds on tax returns, garage sales, little fundraisers,” she said. 

The Ashcrofts in Casa Grande have had a bit of help in their fundraising. They received a $2,500 grant from the Chelsea Hutchison Foundation of Littleton, Colo., created in memory of a 16-year-old girl who died in her sleep from a seizure. Another $6,000 came from a donation made to Service Dogs for Independence by another foundation, Team Lauren of Orange County, Calif. 

Kendall and Rochelle raised another $1,000 on their own, leaving them $1,000 or so to go. 

They’re looking to have the money in hand by October, when Zoey is set to become Tyler’s full-time companion. During the next two weeks, however, the focus will be on the bond between Tyler and Zoey. 

To help it along, the Ashcrofts took Tyler and Zoey to a nearby park. Morris joined them after helping Zoey get in the back of the Ashcrofts’ small sedan. 

The dog sat next to Tyler on the way. Morris drove separately. 

At the park, Tyler played on the jungle gym. It was a near-100-degree afternoon, however, and too hot for Zoey to venture out of the shade. But when Zoey is fully trained and the weather is more accommodating, she will be on the playground alongside Tyler, attached to him by a belt leash. Service dogs join in on the fun, Morris said. 

“We train them to go on the slide,” Morris said. She added: “They even have to ride on the merry-go-round at Peter Piper Pizza.” 

Tyler finished playing on the jungle gym and headed down a sidewalk. Zoey strained at the leash in Morris’s hand. She wanted to follow, and Morris let her lead the way until she caught up to Tyler. 

The bond was growing, and Zoey, in time, would be more than a service dog – she’d be a boy’s best friend. 

Zoey will be formally handed over to Tyler and the Ashcrofts on Oct. 13 in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., at Team Lauren’s annual fundraising golf tournament. The Ashcrofts were one of three families selected by Service Dogs for Independence to benefit from a $16,000 Team Lauren donation. 

To make an individual donation to help the Ashcrofts bring Zoey into their home, go To learn more about Service Dogs for Independence, More about Team Lauren is at The Chelsea Hutchison Foundation is at