Camera Ready!

Untitled-25Slider and I recently had the opportunity to participate in an on-camera interview with Jacksonville’s BUZZ Magazine. This segment was filmed for their video blog (vlog) in the area of Community Focus. As a PR professional, I enjoy helping out with media coverage – especially when it is on a local level. It is important that K9s For Warriors creates awareness for our program, so we can acquire additional funding to save more lives. This was the very first time Slider and I ever did anything like this together.


I have to admit, I was worried about how Slider would behave on the set. I was convinced that I would have a hard time answering questions and staying focus because my mind would be fixated on Slider. You never know how a service dog in-training will respond to a camerasaaasituation they have never been exposed to. Not only was this a location Slider has never been to, but there were a ton of distractions: bright lights, cameras, props, and new people. Slider amazed me. He did great and was not affected by anything. He sat quietly while the interview was conducted and was a wonderful program ambassador for K9s. The camera definitely loved him! It is a great privilege to raise Slider and help prepare him for his training. It is a challenge, but something that is very special and worth it.

Click here to check out the interview.



Public Interaction 101


He is not my personal fashion accessory. He is preparing for his training to save the life of a veteran.


I’d really like to address the elephant in the room – or actually, the dog in the room. I realize that most people may not understand proper etiquette where service dogs and puppies training to become service dogs are concerned. Working at K9s For Warriors, I already had in-depth understanding; however, now that I have a service dog in-training, who I take to most places with me… I have gained further knowledge on this topic.




Slider and I meeting with a group of summer campers. This was a tour that was arranged at K9s For Warriors.


Here are some tips for the public and businesses to follow if you see a puppy-raiser/puppy team, such as Slider and myself out and about:


Please Do Not Talk To Slider

If you talk directly to him, that is distracting him from his purpose. He is training to become a service dog and needs to focus on his surroundings and his handler. You may talk to me directly, however. I enjoy talking about Slider and the mission of K9s For Warriors. Speaking to the dog and not acknowledging the handler can come off as disrespectful.



Please Do Not Talk About Slider And I Like We Are Not There

If you have a question, please direct it to me. Turning to the person you are with and asking them questions about us is not appropriate. Furthermore, making statements aloud about us for others to hear when you are not including us in that conversation is not proper. If you would like to interact with us, please do so.


Here are some things that I’ve heard people saying to others about Slider and me:


“Whoa, who is that girl talking to?”

“Dang, look there’s a dog. That thing scared me!”

A Doggy. Why the heck is he in here?”

“Why does she have him? She looks normal!”

***Yeah… please do not say things like that.



Please Do Not Pet Slider – Unless I Give You Permission To

Most people really love dogs. I know I do. I understand that is tempting to walk by Slider and reach down to touch him, but you need to resist.When he has his vest on, he needs to concentrate on his mission. You may ask me to pet him. I may say no, depending on his behavior and other factors. Please understand that I am not trying to be mean. If I say you may pet him, please feel free to get down on his level and gently touch him. Remember he is a puppy that still gets excited and may jump.



Slider loves meeting new people, especially kids. This little girl had my permission to interact with him.


Please Do Not Feed Slider

He has specific dog food and treats that he has to eat. Slider is not permitted to eat table scraps or even certain types of dog treats. He and I have to follow a puppy-raising handbook. It is very important to us that we obey the rules to ensure that he can become a service dog.



Please pay attention to the vest.



In my wallet I have a card that has Slider’s picture on it. The card has the K9s For Warriors’ logo on it, in addition to the Department of Justice’s logo. Here is what the card says:

I am a service animal and my right to accompany my handler is protected by federal law.

In accordance with the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, businesses may ask:

  • Is this a service dog?
  • What tasks does the service animal perform?

Businesses may not:

  • Require special identification for the animal.
  • Ask about the person’s disability.
  • Charge additional fees because of the animal.
  • Refuse admittance, isolate, segregate, or treat this person less favorably than other patrons.


A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his/her service animal from the premises unless:

  • The animal is out of control and the owner does not take effective action to control it.
  • The animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.

Any business that sells or prepares food must allow service animals in public area, even if state and local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.

Refusal to provide equal access to people with disabilities with service animals is a federal civil rights violation, provided by the American Disabilities Act of 1990. Violators of the ADA can be required to pay money damages and penalties.



I love engaging with the public. Talking to people is something that I really enjoy. Most of the time, if someone asks to pet Slider, I allow it.

Here is an example of the correct way to interact with a service dog in-training and its handler:

Stranger: “Hello, is that a service dog?”

Me: “Actually, he is training to become a service dog.”

Stranger: “Oh, really? Are you training him?”

Me: “No, I am raising him. He is too young to live on the campus where he will train. He will live with me until he turns one. Then, he will move onto the campus at K9s For Warriors and begin working with our trainers.”

Stranger: “That is really cool.”

Me: “Thank you.”

Stranger: “May I pet him?”

Me: “Sure.”

This was a real interaction that I had in a mall with a fellow shopper. This dialogue was very respectful and positive. Please feel free to follow. 🙂


This is what Slider is training to do

Ties That Bind: The Beach School and the Veteran Organization


People frequently talk about how ironic life can be. We end up places we’d never expect to go… or, in some cases, stay. Many times, we find ourselves reminiscing: a happy memory floods our mind, an old photo warms our heart, or an old friend crosses our path.

“Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, quickly go… and we are never ever the same.”

I remember seeing the above quote as a child. My mother had it in a musical frame by her bed. I didn’t really understand the meaning then, but those words certainly resonate with me as an adult today.


Samantha Epstein (Author of Sliding into Service, K9s For Warriors Education Manager, Fletcher Alumni, and Slider’s Foster Mom)

Throughout our lifetime, we make so many meaningful connections with others  – sometimes we go in different directions than them, but other times we are lucky enough to meet these special individuals once again. I grew up in Jacksonville Beach and graduated from Fletcher Middle and High School. I remember sitting in Mr.(Doug) Brown’s American History class when I was in 8th grade. I found history interesting but wasn’t applying myself to my academics… and didn’t until I started high school. I remember a historical project I completed for Mr. Brown’s class. Because we where studying the Civil War – I chose to present a poster about the movie Gone With the Wind and how it related to that chapter of American History. The poster was not well-executed. Looking back, I am embarrassed about the lack of creativity because I grew up to become a marketing and graphic design professional.

Fast forward like a million years – shortly after I began working at K9s For Warriors, I learned about Fletcher High’s community involvement with K9s. “The Interact club has raised thousands of dollars and sponsored multiple dogs for our veterans,” said one of my coworkers. I was amazed because I knew about the time and money that goes into a K9s For Warriors Dog Sponsorship. I was proud. Proud to have come from the beaches community. Proud to have graduated from Fletcher.


Fletcher Interact students present the check for their fifth sponsored dog to Shari Duval, Founder and President at K9s For Warriors.

Then I was told that Doug Brown was the current sponsor of the Interact Club, a club that I was active in during some of my time at Fletcher. “Wow, he was one of my teachers,” I exclaimed! When I was in Interact… it was fun. During my time in the club, I was involved in many community service projects – but nothing as impressive as what these current Fletcher students have accomplished for K9s For Warriors. I have since talked to Mr.Brown and met several of the students. I am so impressed with their drive and passion to support the mission of rescuing dogs and saving the lives of our veterans.


Doug Brown embraces “Fletcher,” the first service dog sponsored by the Fletcher Interact club.

Another coincidence: Slider, the puppy I am raising, is the fourth dog sponsored by Fletcher High School, my high school. This unique turn of events reminds me that community connections are important. I am very glad that I still live close to the Jacksonville Beaches, and I have this bond with Fletcher. You can never forget where you come from. You can never change where you grew up… and I wouldn’t want to. Fletcher is currently sponsoring their fifth dog, and I am sure it will not be their last. K9s For Warriors is lucky to have this very special relationship!


Doug Brown and Fletcher Interact Students congratulate Warrior Michelle and Service Dog Brownie at a K9s For Warriors graduation.

Thank you, Interact, Mr. Brown, and Fletcher. Go Senators!