(177) Taps: Saying Goodbye to Miss Molly

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

Our last two blogs addressed military bugle calls of Reveille and Sunset. Taps sounds the final bugle call of the day. The terminology “taps” comes from the Dutch term taptoe, which means “close the beer taps and send the troops back to camp.” The well-known tune goes by the name of “Butterfield’s Lullaby” or “Day is Done.”

Letting Go of Precious Miss Molly

Molly snuggles with WilliamOur family weeps for the need to move Miss Molly to a new home due to my severe breathing problems. After three months of fighting for every breath, we made the decision to “re-home” her.

Molly’s groomer picked her up one evening and called to tell us about the possibilities of new homes for her. Until a new home is found, Miss Molly stays with the groomer and her two large male dogs. As it turns out, Miss Molly dominates the boys, who willingly submit to her alpha-mom status. She also reported that Molly, a 135 pound St. Bernard/Great Pyrenees, sleeps in bed between her and her husband. With a huge backyard and two playmates, Molly runs and plays all day—something she did not get to do living with us. The groomer reports that she sometimes sits in a corner and whimpers, breaking our hearts even more.

The Dilemma 

Molly giving William loveMolly served many roles in our home: protector, friend, PTSD coach, brace and balance expert, service dog, and our canine love. Her role intervening in PTSD attacks for my Veteran made her indispensable for his disability. She even helped me with brace and balance while undergoing chemotherapy. So, to be faced with a decision about accommodating my severe asthma or William’s need for his service animal, I would have preferred to live with my condition. Unfortunately, my doctor made it clear that living with my condition would not last long, as the damage to my lungs threatens my life.

Molly licking her lipsFor days after giving her up, we see Molly running up the stairs, we hear her dewclaws clicking on the floor, and hear her snoring in the closet—only she isn’t here. We grieve with tears large enough to fill dry lakes. While in the kitchen, I hear sobbing from the den where my husband grips the arms on his chair. The microwave drowns out my sobs but moisture on my apron betrays my sorrow. When I serve dinner and Miss Molly no longer surfaces from naptime to sniff the menu, my Veteran and I hold hands and pray that Miss Molly finds a good home and is doing well. Before falling asleep at night after Taps, we long to hear her snoring just one more time.

The Finality of Taps 

Miss Molly in patriot dressWhen I started the three-part series on bugle calls, I planned to talk about the relief it brings one. It tells us the day is in the past. Whatever we left behind stays behind. Taps tells us turning back events cannot happen and the time has come to let go of the day, looking forward to tomorrow.

With the loss of Miss Molly in our lives, the final bugle call becomes more final for us. Prospects of tomorrow without our lovable fur ball pains us like daggers in the heart. Taps reminds us we cannot get in the car and retrieve Molly to tell her we love her and it was all a mistake. Taps tells us that we must truly let her go.

Molly sits on William's lapSaying Goodbye to the Molly Blog 

Because this blog is Molly’s blog, it cannot continue without her. While this blogger remains committed to encouraging Veterans and their family caregivers, without the heart and stories of Miss Molly, I must also let go of the blog. This is the last blog.

Taps to Miss Molly 

Although I wrote a poem when my cat died, I do not have the words to express the loss of our Miss Molly. I will end by saying:

Miss Molly with CadburyMiss Molly we love you so much. Thank you for loving us unconditionally. Thank you for your loyalty to my Veteran. For your slobbering, messes, and snoring, I’m sorry I complained. You were a blessing to our household. We will never forget how you changed our lives for the better. May God grant you a new loving home with vast fields to run and play. May he grant you a family, who needs you as much as we do. May you continue to inspire great stories and touch others as deeply as you touched us.

For Miss Molly, Taps plays.

May you rest in the Butterfield’s Lullaby.

(176) Sunset: Call to Retreat

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

For our troops no rest approaches at sunset when fighting the war against terrorism. For our Veterans, a state of hypervigilance remains with most with a readiness to take up arms to protect our nation at any call, declaring restsunset over the beach elusive. For the caregivers of our Veterans and family members left behind during military deployments, the full burden falls upon their shoulders to provide care on the home front, leaving no time for rest when the Sunset bugle calls.

Last week, the Molly Blog spoke of the Reveille bugle call, waking troops in a call to action. Today, the blog focuses on Sunset, the call to retreat for the day. The Sunset bugle call, or Retreat, serves as a call to rest and remember those who fought the battle before.

We think of loved ones near and far

And those who’ve fought the fight before

Keep safe your people, Lord

This night and for evermore.

Knowing When to Retreat: A Caregiver’s Perspective 

While this blogger knows nothing of battle and retreat, the importance of retreat as a strategy for survival remains clear. As a caregiver of a Veteran, we battle through the emotions boiling in our Veteran; we fight for our family; tackle mounds of laundry, dishes, and bills; and, fiercely defend our Veteran to ensure proper health care treatment.

Often the easiest path pushes us to do everything ourselves without regard for our own needs. Even the VA (Veterans Administration) understands the need for Retreat, offering a strong caregiver support program and network.

The VA launched the PTSD Family Coach app to help the family caregiver know when to retreat with advice on how to cope when living with or caring for a military member or Veteran with PTSD and/or TBI. It offers a knowledge base on PTSD; stress assessment; safety plan; links for resources; and, help when feeling isolated, angry, or experiencing insomnia. When loading the app, it invites the user to personalize stress intervention by loading favorite pictures and music. A long list of tools numbered 25 when loaded this morning. Topics range from mindful eating to soothing beach scenes with audio. Although the app only serves iOS users today, the VA works to bring it to the Android platform soon.

Veteran’s families can call Coaching Into Care:

1-888-823-7458

Don’t forget that the VA offers a similar app for our service members and Veterans, referred to as the PTSD Coach. The VA reports that the app resides on over 100,000 mobile devices in 74 countries. The National Center for PTSD developed this popular app and it is available for free by downloading to an iOS or Android device (the above web link includes a desktop version, as well).

Retreat is Not Weakness

While it may feel otherwise, no shame exists in retreat. As my Veteran said, “It’s better to retreat today and fight tomorrow.” This applies to our caregivers, as well as our military. Without retreating and refreshing, we as parents and spouses risk our families. Our warriors go to war to protect our country and our families, so why would one ignore the need to retreat when life overwhelms us? 

Molly’s Response to the Sunset Bugle Call 

Even Miss Molly and her Veteran know when to retreat and rest. Do they enjoy it?

Molly Enjoys Retreat

Oh, yeah!

Post your Comments: 

What do you do to help yourself and your family when you need to retreat? Please reply below. 

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 grandchildren.

(175) Reveille Roust: Our Wake-up Call

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

I admit that I am an insomniac. The rhythm of my internal clock works contrary to the bugle calls we hear from our local military base. I rise long before reveille and listen to taps hours before retiring. While productive for completing a caregiver’s task list, agitation accompanies my condition, sending my household into a tailspin. Even Miss Molly sleeps with her head buried under clothes in the closet to avoid my early-morning rousting and late-night vigils.

Honoring the American Flag and Our Warriors

soldier saluting flag

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Airman 1st Class Hrair H. Palyan explained that reveille, retreat, and taps all serve to show respect for the flag and honor Airman, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines from past to present.  Ellsworth Air Force Base website

I asked my Veteran the role reveille played in his military service. His response surprised me.

“Always too early. Get up or get hit upside the head. Another day. Same routine.”

As a young man fighting in the bush of Vietnam, I expected the sound of reveille twisted in his belly and sent shivers along his spine, knowing what dreaded tasks awaited his unit. Instead, he viewed it as routine. I suppose when living in a heightened state of awareness every minute of every day on the battlefield, the early-morning rousting presented nothing more than a marker that another day begins.

Caregiver’s Opportunity

magnified to do list

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Making to-do lists keeps me going forward as a caregiver. No matter the daily challenges, those lists keep me focused and productive. For a caregiver, reveille comes too early but it gives her (or him) a chance to have quiet and peace before the household rises. It offers an opportunity to pray, meditate, and prepare for what lies ahead. In these early hours, we gain the strength to serve our Veteran and other family members. It offers time to enjoy a cup of tea and scratch out the to-do list.

Perhaps, with reveille, whether by bugle call from a nearby base or an alarm clock, an exciting new task might be added to our to-do lists—a task that holds fun or excitement for us and/or our Veteran. This might include a walk in a park, going to a movie, putting together a puzzle, having lunch with a friend, or taking our Veteran and service dog to the local library or hospital to cheer others in need. While several of these ideas require advance planning, adding that planning to our to-do list today allows us to enjoy that exciting venture on another day after reveille calls.

Veterans’ Opportunity

My Veteran hates to-do lists but always manages to finishes those I make for him. While I do not envision him making them for himself, his contentment with his routine brings peace to my hectic days.

For Veterans viewing reveille as routine, perhaps shaking up the day with a new challenge could chase away the doldrums. Check out the VA website for a free class such as PTSD 101 or download the TBI or PTSD coach apps. The VA offers whiteboard discussions about benefits and medical conditions and video testimonials about coping with PTSD and TBI. If none of those options sound appealing, how about a trip to Petsmart with your service dog to find a treat for your loyal canine?

Miss Molly’s Reveille Reaction

While researching reveille, I found the music and played a few bars on my piano for Miss Molly. Even though I waited until noon to play for her, she whined, paced, and howled. I wasn’t sure if she was singing along until she bolted from the room. We found her in the closet with her paws over her ears. How unfortunate, indeed.

Post your Comments: 

How do you respond to reveille? Please reply below. 

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 grandchildren.

(174) Old Friends: A VA Meet Up

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


Reunited One-Half Century Later 

Colorado Springs VA FacilityAnxiety filters throughout the waiting rooms, spanning three floors. Discomfort with another visit to the VA Clinic ripples across a sea of faces. Not an easy task, Veterans fought the stress of dealing with their war-related issues and showed up for another day of doctor appointments. Today, however, my Veteran and I witnessed a reunion, which caught the attention of every Veteran within earshot. Slumping shoulders ceased and every set of eyes focused in glee, as two Veterans embraced after 46 years.

While William waited for his doctor, he spoke with a Vietnam Veteran a few years his senior. Finding out they served near one another in Vietnam one year apart, they spoke of difficulties encountered when returning from war and the ensuing years. As they talked, a man approached softly, interrupting the hushed tones of William and the man he just met.

We marveled at what the two friends revealed over the next 30 minutes in their 46-year reunion. After having last seen each other when serving in Vietnam and then assigned to Germany in 1970, they lost touch. In the intervening years, man-come-softly reached out to the men he served with, finding several other Veterans in his city. In his investigation, he found one comrade-in-arms who lived just blocks from him for 18 years and never realized it until four years after the man died. That set him on an urgent mission to connect with other comrades in his town.

The reunion we witnessed began with an embrace and continued after each man’s doctor visit. The entire episode transformed a waiting room from anxiety to excited anticipated as the story of two men’s lives unraveled. Their initial eye contact flashed recognition from a faded memory. Then, a spark lit. No doubt existed in either man’s face that they had served together in a wicked war nearly one-half century earlier. They spoke without hesitation, sharing as though they woke this morning in the barracks together. Filled with smiles and a knowing nod, two long-lost buddies emerged from war nearly 50 years later in a seamless friendship and a shared purpose in life.

A Mother and Her Veteran Daughter

For me, the day’s highlights included meeting the mother of a female Veteran with her service dog. We talked about the therapeutic value of service animals and how it changed the Veteran’s life. An encouraging story, her daughter displays strength by reaching out for help. She added her voice and value to a unique dynamic that could only unveil itself in the waiting room of a VA Clinic—the place to go for a meet up.

Post your Comments: 

Have you experienced a meet-up at a VA clinic or facility that brightened your day? Please reply below. 

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 grandchildren.

(173) ADA Trumps a Sneeze: Service Dogs and Allergies

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


Miss Molly, the Sneeze Tease 

Occasionally, asthma tickled the fringe of my life but nothing seriously until recently. In full asthma distress, I sought medical intervention with a breathing treatment and an arsenal of inhalers. Full distress just popped up one day and remains nagging. We identified the source when I walked into the bedroom one evening and collapsed in a coughing fit. Molly peeked out from a hidden corner in the room to assist. At that moment, we knew Molly instigated the attack. My doctor confirmed pet dander is the most frequent cause of adult onset of asthma. I call it OLA, Old Lady Asthma.

A Husband’s Call to Action 

Molly works as William’s service dog to help before and during panic attacks. She assists him with brace and balance. We love her and consider her a member of the family. Nonetheless, his response promised swift relocation to another family if my distress continued.

“Stop! Let’s try everything else first. After all, ADA prevails over my allergy to dander.” I assured him many options exist to Molly just groomed reduce exposure.

So, what do we do?

  1. Get the asthma under control with Prednisone
  2. Banish the dog at night to a faraway location
  3. Schedule maintenance of the house air filtration system
  4. Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum
  5. Take the dog to a groomer. Ooh la la, she looks beautiful with her polka dot bows in freshly fluffed fur
  6. Stock inhalers in every room
  7. Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum

If this does not work . . .

  1. Banish wife to a faraway location

Taking it Seriously

Mollys polka dot bowsAsthma and allergies to animals are no laughing matter. ADA guidelines state clearly, however, that the rights of people experiencing allergies to a service animal in public places do not prevail over or limit the rights of a disabled person to keep that animal in public. Businesses are encouraged to relocate the individual with allergies to another location whenever possible. I have seen many service dog owners, including my husband, move when someone nearby shows allergy distress. For me, however, that means at least a 20-foot perimeter.

An Uncertain Future 

Asthma may break my lungs, but giving Molly away would break my heart. Here’s hoping for a creative solution to this game of Bridge. In my home, ADA trumps a sneeze. At the very least I can say, “Miss Molly takes my breath away!”

Post your Comments 

What have you done to deal with allergies to pets in your household? Please reply below. 

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 grandchildren.

(172) Girls Don’t Like Bologna: Military Sexual Trauma

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


Miss Molly Crashes Through Stereotypes

Even though I fought my way up the career ladder in a male-dominated profession, I find that I know nothing about the challenges women face in the military. In fact, Miss Molly reminded me of my errors in stereotyping females when she gulped down a chunk of bologna I dropped when making lunch for my Veteran (so much for girls not liking bologna).

Until now, I have avoided the subject due to my ignorance. Over the past few months, our VA clinic overflows with young female Veterans. Rarely, do these Veterans engage in dialogue, being guarded about their service and experiences. Evidence of despair and hurt ripple through their bodies and in sputters as they speak. Clearly, these Veterans experienced trauma similar to their male counterparts with one significant addition—the predominance of sexual trauma because of their gender. Of course, men also experience sexual trauma.

For this blog, we begin exploration of MST (Military Sexual Trauma) with the statistics.

The Facts about MST 

The VA reports that of the men and women screened at VA facilities for medical care, one in four women report a history of MST. One in 100 men report a history of MST. Because of the dominate number of men in the military, over 40 percent of MST cases reported to the VA are from male victims. The VA declared that MST leads to PTSD more often than other types of trauma.

On a national level, 293,000 victims are sexually assaulted every year. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) estimates that 68 percent of sexual assaults remain unreported; it is no wonder since 98 percent of rapists will never see jail or prison time for their crimes.

Help for MST 

Department of Defense Assistance 

DoD Safe Helpline 877-995-5247 via text or call for help 24/7

The DoD offers help to any individual, who experienced military sexual trauma, rape, or domestic violence. As well, free VA services wait for any Veteran, who experienced MST regardless of the individual’s disability rating. The DoD works with assault victims for not only their healing but to bring the perpetrator to justice.

Veterans Affairs Assistance 

VA Crisis Hotline at 1-800-827-1000 

The VA website for MST offers a list of programs and services, a fact sheet, articles about MST, and links to helpful resources. The site includes a PDF brochure of compensation and claims issues for MST. This document states that while the VA will not rate a disability based on MST experiences, it may rate a disability for issues related to MST, which include PTSD.

In addition to connecting with other resources, the VA employs a MST coordinator at every VA facility. You do not need to have a service-connected disability to use this resource and receive help. The VA stresses:

To receive these services, you do not need a VA service-connected disability rating, to have reported the incident when it happened, or have other documentation that it occurred. Eligibility for MST-related treatment is entirely separate from the disability claims process.

VA Website on MST

RAINN Assistance

National Sexual Assault Hotline operated by RAINN at 800-626-HOPE (4673)

RAINN offers assistance with a 24/7 hotline, resources, and links. It also advocates for the rights of assault victims and for use of DNA in apprehending and bringing perpetrators to justice.

Be Tough; Be Military Strong

During my tenure as an adjunct professor, I met several female Veterans struggling through unresolved issues. Several shared that they suffered from MST but refused help. One Veteran told me, “Marines don’t cry. We suck it up. We move on.” My heart broke as I watched her emotional health crumble with the stress of her civilian job and work on her graduate degree. She agreed to talk with my husband, as a fellow Veteran, who often drove me to campus. He offered to refer her to a mental health counselor at the VA and for us to meet her at the VA hospital but she declined. By the end of the semester, she shared that a female friend accompanied her to the VA to get help. For the first time during the semester, I saw flickers of hope in her eyes.

I never walked in the shoes of a Veteran. Everything I know comes from being married to a disabled combat Veteran for 22 years, talking and observing Veterans at VA facilities, or through my research. I believe the strength of character and resolve of my student mentioned above in seeking help makes her a model of courage. She recognized that to be able to fulfil the military mantra of being tough, putting it behind you, and moving on, she first had to ask for help.

Post your Comments 

What makes military service different for men than women? Please reply below. 

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 grandchildren.

(171) Even a Bird: Ultimate Hope for Veterans and Their Families

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


Spring Cleaning

My broom whisked into corners of the garage, kicking up dust and last year’s insects. With a broad sweep, the beak of a hummingbird peered out of the collected rubble. Apparently, this tiny creature flew into the garage, losing it way back to freedom. My heart broke twice during my spring cleaning, as I found a second bird beneath a garage vac. The thought of losing even one of these precious creatures leaves me weepy.

hummingbird in flightI am not alone in my love for hummingbirds. My Veteran scoops the sweet creatures into his hands when they fly into our home. He speaks gently to calm them and releases them outside.

If we love hummingbirds and weep when they are lost, imagine how much more the Creator of all life feels about us, His creation in His image. Whether one believes in His existence or accepts His gift of eternal life, He still cares for us. He offers hope.

“Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?” Luke 12:24

Embattled Families

Returning home from battle, the warrior carries the burdens and grief of the battlefield. Reintegration into family life presses the warrior with hopelessness. Despair erupts, swallowing the family. Soon, family members feel lost or trapped.

There is nothing too great for our Father to handle. He asks us to give Him our burdens. What a great comfort to heap our problems on the God of the universe. When inviting Him into our life, He does not promise our life will be easy but He does promise He will walk with us through our problems—and we will get through them. With Him, PTSD, TBI, or other losses from war become manageable and we become victorious just as our warriors were victorious in battle.

When despair threatens you or your family, envision yourself as the hummingbird cupped in caring hands. Open your heart and invite Jesus in today. He will help you find your way to freedom from despair and hopelessness.

Post your Comments: 

What do you do to bring relief when despair and hopelessness seeps into your life? Please reply below. 

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 grandchildren.

(170) Service Dog Frauds

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

It happens in grocery stores, in public libraries, shopping malls, and even Costco. Fraudulent critters appear almost everywhere. They sport a fancy vest with the gratuitous “Do Not Pet – Service Animal” splashed in black letters over fluorescent orange. With wet noses thrust in the air, they traipse into public places with wiggles, waddles, and a whine that belie their service-animal status. In short, they are frauds!

These crude violators of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) are not to blame, of course. Their owners make them act so. Their owners dress them up and take them into public places, forcing them into a life of reprobation. Many do so because their pets suffer from separation anxiety. Rather than dealing with it properly, taking Fido along on a shopping trip avoids more costly damage to chewed upholstery and knocked over trash when leaving the pet home alone. For others, their pets offer companionship in a hostile world.

Regardless of the excuse, dressing a pet in a service vest and accessing places otherwise prohibited to animals is illegal and constitutes fraud. Such behavior not only creates a bad name for real service dogs, but it undermines the public trust that is needed to ensure that those with legitimate disabilities will have continued public access with their service animals.

Why so many Canine Criminals? 

In the past year, Miss Molly stayed home when my Veteran traveled to the VA Hospital or local clinic. So many Veterans brought their untrained dogs into the VA that Miss Molly found it difficult to maneuver without a “phony” nipping at her dewclaws or growling as she passed by.

We speculate about why the increase in these illegal pups.

First, ADA intended to make it easy for persons with disabilities to take their service animals into public places. The government wanted to ensure the disabled owner received minimum hassle and embarrassment when using a legitimate, trained service animal. As a result, limitations outlined what a business could ask about the animal and the handler’s disability. Over time, business owners often found it easier not to ask about the status than risk legal action for violating a disabled person’s rights. The general public quickly caught on to business’s hesitancy to query about an animal’s status.

Second, the internet makes it easy for anyone to purchase a service vest and even false credentials. No standardization exists for credentialing with no central registry for service dogs. As well, ADA allows one to train their own service animal with minimum restrictions on an animal’s training other than to support a legitimate disability. These loose standards make it easy for pet owners to overstate their status, if questioned.

Third, many businesses welcome pets, beginning with pet stores that gained recognition as “pet-friendly” shopping meccas. Many dog owners tell me that if they can take their pet into pet stores, why not other places, too—a true case of the “camel’s nose under the tent.” (Is there such thing as a service-camel?)

What’s to be Done? 

This issue appears on legislative dockets across the United States with most states having laws in addition to the federal ADA. Many service animal organizations cry out for revisions to ADA to toughen up the federal law and impose penalties for Fido-infractions (my terminology for fraudulent claims of a service animal).

Just last week, the State of Colorado House passed unanimously HB1308 entitled, “Fraudulent Misrepresentation of a Service Animal.” The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Daniel Kagan, proclaimed that fraudulent claims cause “discrimination against legitimate guide, hearing and service dogs.” The bill moved to the Senate for a hearing scheduled on April 11.

If passed into law, fines for a first offense range from $350 to $1,000. For a third or subsequent offense, a fine, ranging between $1,000 and $5,000 may also include community service hours.

Working like a Dog 

Service vestAs with any job, one must master the skills and give their work attention, commitment, and heart to be successful. Working as a service dog is no exception. Our disabled Veterans and others with disabilities depend upon our furry fellows to navigate public places. We must support our career canines by preserving the service animal’s role and right to access public places without the distractions presented by those verminy, untrained imposters.

By the way, entering the VA clinic today, we noticed several newly-posted signs that declared, “Service Animals Only.” Inside, we heard no dog skirmishes and observed only a few well-trained service animals. It seems the VA is cracking down on the scruffy scofflaws!

Post your Comments: 

Have you ever witnessed a service-animal imposter in a public place? What tipped you off that the animal was not a qualified service animal? Please reply below. 

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.

(169) Behind the Walls: The Corrosive Nature of PTSD

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


Home Flipping 

William loves watching home building shows—flipping, flopping, rehabbing, and fixing. Admittedly, there is something about watching homeowners demolish the ugly with sledgehammers and crowbars that is therapeutic. Of course, in the end, a butterfly emerges from the rubble and homeowners swoon with delight.

During the course of every renovation, the experts find problems—problems that elude visual inspection. Some problems undermine the foundation, others display rot and vermin, and occasionally some require spacesuits and decontamination. While homeowners know the risks of buying a fixer-upper, they express alarm when observing the flaws inside walls and beneath concrete foundations.

PTSD Lurks Behind Walls 

My Veterans stands tall at 6’4”. His once athletic life left a legacy of strength in his shoulders and gait. Discovering he is disabled, people comment, “He looks so normal.” In fact, a family member recently commented, “I never knew he suffered any effects of war. He looked so normal when he returned home.” PTSD is like that. Especially for warriors, who are taught to continue on regardless of personal injury. Don’t show weakness. Be strong. Exude confidence and strength. Put your trauma behind you.

For our warriors returning to civilian life, the military mantra reverberates throughout life even when torn apart inside. As their lives slowly unravel from their war experiences, they deny the symptoms of PTSD. Their hurt seeps deeper out of sight, boring into their core. Without treatment, the pain festers until rupture, as an aged water pipe that bursts without provocation. In a matter of time, the foundation crumbles with damaged relationships, dysfunctional habits, uncontrolled rage, and suicidal thoughts.

Demolishing Walls 

Just as experts help homeowners with their rehab projects, the VA employs experts to work with Veterans on managing PTSD. Effective treatments help Veterans reconstruct their lives after war trauma. In fact, the sooner the expert is invited in to help the Veteran after returning from war, the sooner reconstruction begins. With early help, the less damage PTSD wreaks on Veterans and their families.

I hear from many service members being discharged from duty that the military works proactively in assessing PTSD prior to release. This change in policy speaks boldly for a military that once denied the existence of PTSD and preached “put it behind you.” It gives the Veteran a chance at a normal life after war.

Behind the Walls of the VA 

Even the VA suffers with vermin and rotting foundations, as news stories reveal. Although, from the outside things appeared normal, the past three years of events suggest differently. The agency is riddled with allegations of corruption, wrong doing, incompetence, apathy, mismanagement, and inefficiency. Despite decades of self-promotion as a bulwark of excellence, the image crumbles with reality. Full-scale demolition of the VA began two years ago. With such a large bureaucracy, how long demolition and reconstruction will take remains guesswork.

It took a long time for the VA façade to crumble and for the agency to admit its failings publicly. With that admission, we can only hope that reconstruction will be sound and effective. The lives of our warriors and their families depend on it.

What’s Behind the Walls of Miss Molly’s Façade? 

DSCN2403Inside, outside, upside, and downside, this 125-pound buttercup is nothing but a fluffy fur ball.

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What three words would you use to describe your service animal or pet? Please reply below. 

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 grandchildren.

(168) Honoring Vietnam Veterans–50 Years Later

Molly's new profile picture

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

March 29, 2016 represents the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. While usually a 50th anniversary commemorates wedded bliss and a long marriage, this anniversary is anything but blissful or a happy union. In fact, for many Vietnam Veterans, it represents the beginning of a life riddled with nightmares and memories of tragic endings.

Since William started wearing a hat announcing his service in Vietnam, strangers approach him in restaurants and other public places to thank him for his service. It took him nearly 50 years after the war to display his service openly due to the shame affixed to Veterans of this war. As well, it took 50 years before anyone thanked him for his service. From discussions with other Vietnam Veterans, they cited similar experiences.

50 anniversary of Vietnam

Nine thousand service organizations plan to join the VA and the Department of Defense for commemoration ceremonies on March 29 to honor the nine million men and women, who answered the call to duty, serving between November 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975. Three hundred and twenty-nine VA medical centers, regional benefit offices, and national cemeteries will host commemorative events on Tuesday, March 29. For more information, click here.

Miss Molly wears a Vietnam War hat

Miss Molly’s Tribute to Vietnam Veterans 

“Since I’m only five years old, I wasn’t around when you were called into service. Thank you for answering the call to duty, as I know it was a ruff experience. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE AND SACRIFICE. Welcome home.

Post your Comments: 

Will you join one of the ceremonies around the nation to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War? Please reply below.

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.