Message from the Director

It is with great deal of mixed emotion that I share the news with you of Dr. Betancourt’s retirement.  As some of you know, she has been partnered with her own service dog for some time now.  And she actively recruited me as her replacement as Executive Director a little over a year ago.

What many of you may not know, because she is one of those individuals focused on possibilities and opportunities, is that she has faced some increasing health issues of late and, rightly, has determined that some lifestyle changes are necessary in order to manage her health.

Most of you are aware of her considerable contributions to individuals with disabilities over the past 15 years with FSDS.  I asked her permission to share something more personal about her with you as a tribute to her courage, faith, and integrity:

She was raised as a concert cellist from a very young age and held a symphony seat beginning at the age of 15.  Despite her passion for her cello and family expectations for a career in music, the tragic death of a close friend in 7th grade sparked a new passion in her: “Do something meaningful!”  She became one of the first women paramedics in her area and has always treasured those early years serving as a medic.

In spite of some serious on-the-job injuries and early medical issues, Dr. B then enrolled in medical school.  In 2005 she began to train and received her first service dog.  She went on to co-found FSDS in 2008 and continued to honor her vow to “Serve with honor” and “Protect and serve her brothers and sisters.”

When I asked Dr. B what her current reflections are on a life well-lived, her response was simple: “I kept a promise made in memory of my friend who died; I didn’t squander the opportunities I was given; I worked to earn trust every day. “She went on to share, “And I am filled with gratitude to FSDS for the privilege of this wonderful ride.”

Please join me in thanking Dr. Betancourt for her service.   Tribute donations can be made by following this link:


PS: Dr B will be volunteering time to assist with the data gathering study we hope to launch very soon.  Another reason for gratitude on our part!

Classroom News

Lindsey/Shannon & Bailey– continue to work on their service skills. This coming month we are hard at work on getting Bailey exposed to the light rail, airport, fire station, and other busy outings to enhance her service skills and basic obedience around distractions in different environments. This is all great practice for Shannon to be able to work and see how Lindsey handles Bailey in these types of environments, leading to increased confidence when handling Bailey.

Tom/Sharon Linton & Ruby– Now that Ruby has been cleared by the Vet to come to the training facility for class, we have been working on generalizing her basic obedience skills that we taught her at home.  While this can prove to be a challenge for a puppy, Ruby has been doing a really good job.  We are continuing to teach Ruby the importance of impulse control and staying focused on us! She has mastered Sit and Down Stay with adding distance, so now we are able to add distractions while having to remain in her sit/down command!  Tom and his wife, Sharon, are doing an outstanding job in their training.  Kudos to them!

We wish to express our sincere appreciation to Yamill Perez.  He initially signed on for an 18 month training, and has stayed way beyond that time to work on training Bailey.  Unfortunately, his schedule no longer permits him to be a part of Bailey’s training, and he has turned Bailey over to Lindsey Carlson, a Sr. Trainer with the FSDS.  Yamill is to be commended for his outstanding work, and for the valuable service he has provided to our community.  We know he will continue to do great things throughout his life.

Now Accepting Applications

Though the precise start date for the classes that will be involved in our upcoming data project has yet to be determined, we will be starting a new class separate from that in the near future.

Outreach Evaluator Program

We appreciate those of our evaluators who currently are working with us throughout nearly 15 states.  Our goal is to have Outreach Evaluators in all 50 states, and we are actively qualifying trainers who are interested in becoming a part of our team.  To learn more, please visit our Become an Evaluator page.

Wellness Tip

Spring has officially arrived.  For some parts of the U.S. this means mild temperatures, but here in the desert SW and other areas it means temperatures in the 90s and 100s.  This month we turn our attention to steps that you can take to minimize the risk of heat-related illness in your dog.

As hot as it is for us humans, we need to remember that our dogs are wearing a fur coat, and even those 80 degrees can cause a dog to overheat.

Heat exhaustion is a condition that can occur with exercise or overwork, or extended time outdoors.  If not addressed, this can progress to heat stroke.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include, but are not limited to:

  • Heavy panting
  • Dizziness or staggering when walking
  • Lies down and can not get up
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Collapse or fainting
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle cramps or tremors
  • Abnormally rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Muscle weakness

Heat stroke is a true medical emergency.  It occurs when the body loses its ability to cool.

Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Rapid and irregular pulse
  • Rapid and/or difficulty breathing
  • Exaggerated or labored panting, or sudden stopping of panting
  • Very high body temperature- cell damage or death can occur at temps > 106
  • Excessive drooling; frothing at the mouth
  • Dark red gums
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Barking or whining
  • Anxiety or agitation
  • Dizziness or staggering when walking
  • Confusion
  • Incoordination
  • Vacant expression or staring
  • Weakness or listlessness
  • Shaking or seizures
  • Sudden collapse
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Dry mouth or nose
  • Decreased urine output
  • Glazed eyes; dilated pupils
  • Difficulty standing or walking

Prevention of heat-related illness.  Some steps you can take to protect your dog include:

  • Exercise your dog in the early morning hours during the hot summer months.
  • Limit the time that you allow your dog to be outdoors to exercise.
  • Always ensure that your dog has adequate amounts of cool water (or ice chips) to drink.
  • If you will be outdoors at an event with your service dog, consider purchasing a battery operated small portable fan. Always bring a thicker, thermal blanket for your dog to lay on when outdoors at events so that they do not have to lay on hot pavement.
  • Always carry a thermal jug of cold water, and put ice cubes in the water before leaving the home to ensure that the water stays cold.
  • Ensure that you carry a portable water bowl with you at all times as a part of your dogs routine working equipment.

Stay safe and have a great month.

With Appreciation

Our sincere appreciation to the following individuals / organizations who have supported the FSDS programs and mission during the month of March.

  • Valerie Schluter
  • Karen Sendelback
  • Stan and Linda Van Peursem
  • Stephanie Sloggett-O’Dell
  • Denis and Cynthia Murphy
  • Scott & Peggy Ciley
  • Kylie Graham
  • Jonathan Ward
  • Cristy Pastore
  • Kim Quinn
  • Anita McGehee
  • Todd Johnson
  • Stephanie Dietrick
  • Timothy Glenn
  • Lawrence Santangelo

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