(102) A Special Treat that is Better than a Dog Bone: Introducing Veteran Jeffrey Crockett and His Service Dog, Phineas

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

For those of you who read Miss Molly’s Blogs, you might remember the story about a Veteran, who was denied a hotel room because his service dog accompanied him (see Blog 66). Former Marine, Jeffrey Crockett and the DOJ (Department of Justice) took on the Days Inn Hotel in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and prevailed in a lawsuit against the hotel.

Shortly after I ran the blog, Mr. Crockett contacted me and thanked Miss Molly for running the story, as he felt that getting the word out of the action against the hotel might encourage other Veterans to pursue service dog discrimination.

Mr. Crockett agreed to an interview with Miss Molly to share his story and his journey as a disabled Veteran. There is a lot to share so the blog will be a two-parter.

Meet the Crockett Family

Crockett Family

Our featured Veteran served in two branches of the military. He served in the US Air Force as a Security Forces Police Officer stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines from 1987 to 1990. He served in the US Marine Corps as an Avionics Electrician stationed at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station in Havelock, North Carolina from 1996 to 1999.

Jeff and his family of eight live in Texas. His wife Jennifer and he married 17 years ago. His children are Joshua, 14; Gabriel, 12; Michael, 10; Bethany, 7; and Rebekah, 20 months. Who is the eighth member of the family? Phineas, of course–Jeff’s service dog, a six-year old long-haired German Shepherd.

Phineas, service dog

Phineas came into the Crockett family five years ago. Like Miss Molly, Phineas was rescued from the Humane Society. She assists Jeff in balance and maneuvering around obstacles and traversing stairs. He alerts Jeff in advance to panic attacks and stays with him through the attacks to ensure his safety. Phineas wakes Jeff from nightmares, serves as a barrier between him and others in crowded places, forces Jeff to rest when overexerting, and warns him of threats around him. While you might think that this working dog earns his keep with these tasks, Phineas offers our Veteran even more amazing benefits.

Phineas is trained to keep an eye on his children and warn Jeff when they get too far ahead. With five kids, that is an awesome skill. If that isn’t enough, Phineas is being trained to track his children based on scent so he can lead Jeff to his children if he is ever separated from them. Now that is one super dog!

About the Lawsuit 

I asked Jeff how he felt when the Days Inn Hotel denied him and his family access. At the time I asked the question, I did not realize he had so many children. Being turned away with kids compounds the horror of what he suffered. Jeff said that his first reaction was anger, disbelief, and anxiety. He explained the requirements of ADA to the hotel clerk but that did not change the hotel’s position to ban service animals. The hotel sent him and his family away. Jeff shared,

“I was distressed because my family and I were exhausted after a very long and challenging day of travel, and I was concerned that I had no idea where else we would be able to stay if we could not secure a room at this location.”

Having suffered enough through the action of the hotel, I asked Jeff what made him pursue the claim through the DOJ. He commented that the horrific treatment he and his family received at the hands of the hotel was plenty of reason; however, when the hotel employee said the hotel, “had turned away someone else with a service animal earlier that day and they could do the same to him,” he knew he had to do something about it.

Jeff started the process with an internet search to find an organization to help. He found the Oklahoma Disability Law Center in Tulsa, OK. An attorney from the center worked with him and helped him file his complaint with the DOJ.

“I was nervous at first when I was told I would be working with the Department of Justice,” said Jeff. “The attorneys with the DOJ did a great job of easing my fears and doing everything possible to keep me informed of the process of the lawsuit.” He spoke highly of the interaction with the DOJ, commenting they explained things in a way he and his family could understand. “It was a pleasure working with them, and I consider the attorney I worked with to be a family friend.” 

Phineas takes on Goofy

Phineas takes on Goofy

Stay Tuned for Friday’s Blog for Part II 

On Friday, we will hear from Jeff about his feelings with the resolution of the lawsuit. We will also hear about his plans for the future.

Post your Comments: 

Do you have a story you want to share about how you handled discrimination against you and your service animal? Please complete the form below or reply to the blog.

 

Photo credits: Crockett family picture, including Phineas provided by Jeffrey Crockett

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.