Friday, November 13, 2020

Service Dog Strong an admirable force for those experiencing RR-PTSD

By Lorraine Glowczak

Laynie Danforth, a RR_PTSD
survivor, trains her new service
dog, Doug, all due to the help
of Service Dog Strong located
in Windham. Danforth says
that Doug has given her the
confidence to start living her

Service Dog Strong’s mission is to provide trained service dogs free of charge to individuals who experience PTSD related anxiety due to sexual trauma, otherwise known as Rape Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (RR-PTSD). This includes military veterans who experience MST (military sexual trauma).

Service Dog Strong (SDS) officially became a non-profit in June 2019. Simone Emmons, along with co-founder Kristen Stacy, have been working for over a year on a volunteer basis to provide support to others who have experienced pain and suffering due to sexual assault. The Windham Eagle newspaper spoke with them in August 2019 and shared their story. (

“I started this organization because I simply wanted to help other people who have been through what I have,” Emmons said during that August 2019 interview.

The Windham Eagle reached out recently to see how the non-profit has progressed.

“Since we spoke last, SDS celebrated our one-year anniversary, launched our website, gained many new followers and supporters and we were finally able to financially support our mission,” Emmons said, whose service dog Gunner has eased the angst of anxiety attacks she experiences as a result of personal MST.

“SDS was awarded a generous local Maine grant as well as donations from loving individuals to fulfill our mission,” Emmons said. “We are able to take our survivors who had been on our wait list for almost a year and start our first ever Service Dog training class.”

SDS adopts dogs from kill shelters with the right temperament and places them in a training class where the RR-PTSD survivor is taught to train the dog themselves. They work under the instruction of an expert Windham trainer and veteran police officer, Dominic Rizzo, known as “Detector Dog Northeast.”

Laynie Danforth is one of those individuals who is helped by this organization.

“I had heard about the benefits of having a service animal [with those experiencing RR-PTSD] so I set
out to find an organization that would help me,” Danforth said. “I searched many hours on the internet and all I found were very expensive programs or programs solely dedicated to veterans. Eventually, I came across SDS and there was finally hope for the future. Not only do they help veterans, but they also help survivors like me.”

Danforth and her new service dog, Doug, have been in training together since mid-August. Doug will officially be hers at the end of the 20-week course that ends in January 2021.

In this short timeframe with SDS and Doug, Danforth has experienced a positive and healthy approach to life.

“Before SDS and Doug, I found it very difficult to be around crowds,” Danforth said. “My PTSD was heightened in the dark and I would spend nearly every night suffering from nightmares or sleeping hardly at all. I was on a few medications that my doctors felt would help keep my panic and other symptoms more under control. Unfortunately, they offered little relief. Now, having Doug in my life he helps me in a number of ways- not only to feel more secure when I am alone or in a crowd but he helps me by doing pressure therapy when I am sleeping so that I don’t have as many nightmares. He also turns on the lights when I need him to, alerts me to the changes in my anxiety even before I notice so I can use alternative methods to calm down. I have been able to get off almost all medications. Doug has given me the confidence to get out and start to live again. It's like a world that I thought was gone forever has started to emerge again.”

SDS, a 100 percent volunteer run organization, works with a local shelter, The Green Ark. They hand
pick dogs to fulfil the mission of SDS, and at the same time giving the rescue dog - who would have been euthanized, not only life but a sense of purpose and calling.

“If readers would like to participate in our journey and support the SDS mission, we have two ways currently they can show their support and be strong with us,” Emmons said. “We encourage them to go to our website at and donate via PayPal or they are free to visit us on Facebook and donate from our page. The cost to put one survivor through our class is roughly $3500.”

Emmons would like to thank the local community and The Windham Eagle newspaper for their continued support and looks forward to more possible assistance.

“We hope our format catches on nationwide and we see changes in options in treating PTSD; having service dogs become a viable option for people looking for a sustainable, non-pharmaceutical tool to lessen the effects of PTSD,” Emmons said.

As for those who may be suffering from RR-PTSD but are hesitant about coming forward for help, Danforth offers this advice:

“You are not what happened to you,” she said. “There wasn’t anything you did to encourage it and I promise that it was not your fault. As scary as it might be to get help, living in fear or in shame is so much worse. Once you take that first step toward healing, you render your attacker powerless and life can begin again.”<

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