(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.

(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.

(161) In the Hot Zone: VA Working to Restore Trust

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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)

VA Under Siege 

The hot zone not only applies to Middle Eastern locales where American warriors are under fire but to Washington DC where the VA faces heavy fire from politicians, demanding accountability for system-wide failures. In December, VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson verbally fought back when US Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas and Representative Jeff Mill of Florida referred to the VA as a corrupt agency with chronic indifference.

Breakthrough Priorities 

Meanwhile, VA Secretary Robert McDonald faced the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on his 12 priorities for 2016. Here is what he committed to accomplishing in what the VA refers to as “12 Breakthrough Priorities”—but don’t get too hopeful yet, as several of his initiatives require Congress to pass specific laws in order to achieve the priority. (To read McDonald’s remarks, click here.)

  1. Improve the Veteran Experience – established a Chief Veteran Experience Officer to focus on customer service, setting standards, and meeting best practices
  2. Increase Access to Health Care – ensure enrolled Veterans receive same day care when needed
  3. Improve Community Care – via Veterans Choice Program with the Veteran authorized to receive care outside of the VA under certain conditions with vendors to be paid within 30 days; subject to successful legislation
  4. Deliver a Unified Veteran Experience – improve web access to VA information for Veterans and their families
  5. Modernize Contact Centers – improve the emergency care hotline with better referrals
  6. Improve the Compensation and Pension Exam Process – measure and improve Veteran’s experience with this process
  7. Develop a Simplified Process – create a modified appeals process and decrease backlog; subject to successful legislation
  8. Continue Progress in Reducing Veteran Homelessness – assist 100,000 more homeless Veterans and family members
  9. Improve Employee Experience – provide better training and add customer service standards to employee performance plans
  10. Staff Critical Positions – address critical staffing shortages by filling positions more quickly
  11. Transform Office of Information and Technology – the VA hired a world-class IT director to address problems with the VA IT system to improve compliance with congressionally mandated interoperability requirements
  12. Transform Supply Chain – improve Medical-Surgical supply and purchasing system to increase responsiveness and reduce costs

In addition to those items already mentioned, Secretary McDonald asked the Committee and Congress for support on the following:

  • Consolidation of Care in the Community
  • Flexible Budget Authority
  • Support for the Purchased Health Care Streamlining and Modernization Act
  • Supporting the FY2017 Budget being submitted this week
  • Special legislation for VA’s West Los Angeles Campus

Speaking of the VA’s West Los Angeles Campus, stay tuned for an update next week on the VA’s plan to restore the West Los Angeles land donated for homeless Veterans back to the Veterans. Not much to tell yet, but you’ll be interested to hear about the one thousand comments the VA received in response to the Draft Master Plan (and I promise I won’t list them).

Molly and Penny’s Breakthrough Priority

If you have been a Molly blog reader for long, you know that Penny has a problem leaving food on the counter and Molly has a problem with eating it. Penny pledged many times not to do it again. Molly promised only to eat when hungry or when treats are left on the counter like the Thanksgiving ham, unsalted butter, and bacon.

Renewing her priority in 2016, Penny vowed to help her husband’s chubby pup by keeping edibles put away. Less than one month into her breakthrough priority, she rushed out the door for just a moment, returning the bacon and the butter to the refrigerator. Oops, she left a dozen eggs on the counter, which Molly found during the minute Penny stepped outside. Molly delicately removed one raw egg and cracked it open on the bedroom carpet. She ate the contents and left the egg shell cracked in half on the floor, giving away her violation.

Molly broke through the egg shell with ease, leaving it mostly intact. Can you see why I called this my breakthrough priority? (If I had stayed away longer, she may have broken through the full dozen–then it would be my “12 breakthrough priorities.”) Let’s hope that VA Secretary McDonald has a better track record at achieving his breakthrough priorities than Molly and her human mom.

Post your Comments: 

Do you think Secretary McDonald identified the most significant VA problems in his list of Breakthrough Priorities for 2016? If not, what is missing? Please reply below. 

Sources cited:

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.

(157) What’s in your Tummy? CTs, Ultrasounds, and MRIs

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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)

My husband and I visited our favorite Chinese restaurant this week. I grabbed the local Petacular newspaper and we talked about his VA appointments for the following week. He groaned as I reminded him of his upcoming CT, two Ultrasounds, and his MRI.

“I know it might seem like a waste of time,” I said, “but they can see amazing things with these devices.”

He nodded, accepting his fate.

Opening the paper, an x-ray of a dog’s stomach sprawled across the page.

“What’s that?” William pointed at a large cylindrical shape inside the stomach of a dog.

“A flashlight. The article said the Greyhound swallowed a flashlight!” I would have read more at the time but it seemed the discussion would not be well received over piping hot plates of chicken lo mein and spicy pork.

Later that evening, Dr. Laas’s article, “My dog swallowed what. . .?” said that he finds lots of goodies inside the stomachs of pets, using modern imaging technologies, such as radiographs, ultrasound, CT scans, and MRIs. Often a veterinarian cannot find the source of an animal’s loss of appetite, vomiting, or other problems. As a Boarded Radiologist, Dr. Laas spent four years of rigorous training after veterinarian school to be able to take advantage of technology to help in these cases. His technology revealed special treats such as wedding rings, fishing hooks, string, tinsel, and small toys inside the stomachs of pets.

Had it not been for the photo of the x-ray, showing the flashlight inside the dog’s stomach, I would not have believed it. Intrigued, I decided to embark on an internet search for other weird things dogs eat. (Warning: Some of these may seriously gross you out! In fact, Miss Molly buried her head when William and I discussed them. Even William winced once or twice.)

Barkpost offered a list that includes contest winners to the most horrifying and impressive things eaten by dogs. This website includes the medical scans and photos of the recovered items for those of you with iron stomachs. Unfortunately, the retrieval of the forbidden snacks almost always required surgery for the pets. In all cases, the website tells of the pet’s full recovery. Here we go:

  • Woof ate five rubber duckies and some miscellaneous items from the baby’s bathtub—not all at once but over several months of bathing so as not to get caught.
  • Marley ate a metal barbeque skewer along with the meat that once adorned the skewer.
  • A three-year old Great Dane ate 43.5 socks. All were recovered after surgery after the dog just lost his appetite one day (and you’ll lose your appetite just looking at the recovered socks).
  • A Golden Retriever ate a light bulb. Fortunately, he passed it without breaking the bulb. (I always knew Golden Retrievers were bright dogs . . . um, maybe not.)

Other finds? Two cups of pea gravel from a turtle aquarium, 104 pennies and a quarter, a 9 x 2 cm pocket knife, nine sewing needles, and a hacky sack.

The internet is filled with stories of their pets’ dangerous snacking. It sends a clear message that we need to pay extra attention to our pets’ eating habits, watching for unusual behaviors. So, if your pet stops eating or starts vomiting or if objects just disappear, consult your veterinarian. If your veterinarian is stumped, head on over to your nearest Boarded Radiologist’s office to get an x-ray, CT scan, or an MRI.

I suppose I’d rather let Molly eat ham off the counter than get into my baking drawer with all of those luscious metal cookie cutters and my Teflon-coated rolling pin.

I must admit, this story made me queasy. Now, I’m worried about what the VA might find in my Veteran’s tummy next week!

Post your Comments:

What is the most unusual thing your pet has eaten? Please reply below. 

Sources cited:

  • Laas, Cody. “My dog swallowed what. . .?” in Petacular, Winter 2015/2016, 5.
  • Shaffer, Griffin. “11 of the Most horrifyingly and impressive things dogs have ever eaten.” Barkpost as retrieved at http://barkpost.com/dogs-eat-strange-things/ on January 6, 2016.

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.

(155) Not Another New Year: Exchanging Despair for a Goal

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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)

The year 2015 melts away as quickly as stolen unsalted butter melts on Miss Molly’s tongue. While for some, a new year rushes in with promise and new beginnings, for others, it stinks like dog breath and litter boxes.

After my father died when I was a young adult, anger tumbled into resentment as I watched people continue with their happy lives. Even birds singing and children laughing triggered heartache deeper than the San Andreas Fault.

Passing through this holiday season, Veterans reminded me of the loneliness and despair wrought by PTSD, TBI, and war-related illness. Often changing the subject in VA hospital waiting rooms to a brighter topic, I raised the question of New Year’s resolutions and the promise of a better year. Jaws tightened. Eyes rolled.

“Ain’t nothing good ‘bout another year,” one Veteran said.

Although I understood despair from my Father’s passing, I will never know the despair of a Veteran with disabilities from war.

My husband participated in a VA PTSD program for CPT (Cognitive Processing Therapy). Veterans’ assignments required the setting of goals for their health and overall lifestyle. Goal setting required self-assessment, focus, and taking control over PTSD.

Serving in the military, our Veterans are no strangers to goal-setting, to-do lists, and achievement so using them to outrun despair lies within reach. For the caregiver, juggling family demands and managing a Veteran’s medical needs, goals can make the difference between having time to rest or a never-ending sink of dirty dishes.

Consider setting your New Year’s resolution with goals that will bring you closer to your ideal future. Make them SMART—Simple, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time specific.

Is Your Goal SMART?

Let’s use Molly’s New Year’s Resolution as an example of a SMART goal:

No more eating the Christmas ham from the countertop.

  • Simple – It is a straightforward goal—even for a dog
  • Measurable – We know if she eats it or if she does not so we can measure success or failure
  • Attainable – Molly can achieve this goal because she knows it is wrong to eat from the counter even if her alpha human mom leaves it out; since she knows not to eat off restaurant floors, she can know she must avoid countertops
  • Realistic – Molly’s training includes rewarding her for good behaviors and redirecting her when she engages in unacceptable behavior like eatingMolly licking her lips from counters; her training makes this goal realistic
  • Time Specific – Christmas is a specific day and the ham sits on the countertop for a limited time

Good job, Miss Molly. This is the perfect New Year’s resolution. Have a piece of ham—oh, I forgot; there isn’t any left because you ate it all off the counter on Christmas!

Post your Comments:

Have you or your service dog made a New Year’s resolution? Please reply below.

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

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.

(148) Ten Dogs of December

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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)

We returned to the VA Clinic for William’s doctor’s appointment rescheduled because of the Planned Parenthood shooting. No visible signs remained of the torturous episode. VA employees served Veterans with kindness and efficiency, as they generally do at our clinic. One noticeable change, however, stood out with service dogs—they showed up everywhere.

We hypothesized why so many dogs accompanied their owners today. Was it nervousness about the shootings last week just a block away? Could apprehension of driving snowy and icy roads be the cause? Perhaps, the holidays served as the reason, as we know how difficult this special time of year can be for those dealing with extreme challenges and loneliness. Likely, all three reasons are responsible for canine day at the VA.

Usually, Molly steals the show with her size, gentleness, and beauty but we left her at home. Today, there were a lot of stars with loads of canines helping Veterans. Several skirmishes broke out between untrained therapy dogs while the service dogs remained professional and obedient. Nonetheless, the VA clinic appeared as the dog days of December. Here is the rundown of those in attendance (some of the names have been changed to avoid tattling on the naughty because Santa is a Molly Blog fan).

     1 Nipper, a Miniature Aussie (name means surfer or lifesaver), who helped a young female veteran and her son      2 Bouncer, a Black Lab, (named because his owner has TBI and yells at him but he keeps bouncing back, offering unconditional love)
     3 Mallard, a German Shepherd (name means army counselor), who navigated the crowded facility, siting with his Veteran in the corner of the lobby with their backs to the wall      4 Locks, a Golden Doodle, (named for her curly locks), served her aging Veteran, who looked a lot like her without his tongue hanging out
     5 Patriot, a multiple breed dog (named so because of his American flag scarf), who kept his nervous Veteran occupied by practicing his commands; Patriot was well trained and obedient but his master left him alone several times      6 Dogchowager, a Chow (named after a Dowager, as a Chinese breed); her owner defended use of the Chow as an unofficial service animal remarking, “She doesn’t bite too much.” No need for a “Do Not Pet” patch on her vest—if she had a vest
      7 Lillie, a long-haired dachshund, sporting an official service vest, whose Veteran we met a few months earlier and remembered us (presumed named for her sweetness)      8 Altman, a Saint Bernard, (German name, meaning ‘old wise man’); Altman appeared as old as his WWII Veteran and just as wise
     9 Rosemarie, a French Bull dog (name means bitter rose), whose owner said, “You can pet her but don’t scratch her cuz she sheds.”    10 Bertha, a Bernese Mountain Dog (named for her girth), kept everyone away from her Veteran with matted fur, surly disposition, and a fierce growl if you got too close

Not every owner appeared comfortable with the behavior of their service animal today. In every case, however, the service animal and for some, their pets, calmed them and wagged tails when looking at their Veteran. Whether naughty or nice, these ten dogs of December confirm that dogs are good medicine for the broken, lonely-hearted, and downtrodden Veteran.

Post your Comments:

When in public, does your service animal appear well-trained? 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.

(144) Unexpected Blessings: Molly Raids the Grandma Bag

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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)

Before taking William for oral surgery, I double checked to make sure my grandma bag hung out-of-reach of Molly, who stayed behind. The bag hung securely by the handles wrapped twice around the top of a high barstool. Having learned that Molly loves the taste of baby squeeze fruit and animal crackers, I took those items out of the bag in case she found a way to disengage the 12-pound bag.

When returning home, Molly nuzzled up to William and avoided eye contact with me—a sure sign of mischief. A trail of torn plastic bags and brownie crumbs told me all I needed to know—she figured out how to untangle the handles of my grandma bag and snag the bag without knocking over the rod-iron chair. She removed my forgotten snacks and chowed down.

Molly and William on sofaChecking the chocolate meter from Blog 5, I knew two Fiber One brownies would not harm her so I cleaned up the mess, as I mumbled “bad dog.” Molly had curled up with William while I tossed empty wrappers. Seeing the two together, it took only a moment to forget her naughtiness and acknowledge what a blessing she is as a service animal, who steadies William, consoles him when his PTSD flares, and loves him unconditionally.

Another Unexpected Blessing

William thanked me for caring for him and accompanying him to the oral surgeon’s office on one of the most blustery days we have experienced in Colorado. As it ended up, the trip to the surgeon landed me a blessing quite unexpected.

Because of the blizzard, several patients cancelled except for another tough guy and his wife. The tough guy was an 80-year old retired Army Colonel, who braved the storm to bring his wife in for surgery. It turned out that the Colonel and my husband served in Vietnam at the same time. Both fought in the worst battle during the Vietnam War—the TET Offensive in 1968.

I listened to the Colonel’s story, which made the pages of history spring into life in the waiting room. Tough guy trained at the Monterey Language Institute, becoming fluent in Vietnamese during the war. Serving on several missions, he led men into battle. As the war winded down, he was assigned to negotiate for the release of American and South Vietnamese Prisoners of War (POWs). I felt his misery of those times when his team failed in negotiations, being forced to leave many behind. I shared in his joy when his team succeeded in extracting hundreds. I cried when he spoke of the torture and pain he observed, touring Hotel Hanoi and other POW camps. He looked surprisingly younger than his age but as he spoke of his years in Vietnam, his eyes told the story of every soldier lost to war and how deeply he hurt for each one—the memories hanging on the edge of his heart.

After surgery, I introduced William to the retired Colonel. They spoke about their paths that crossed many times unaware to each. The comradery was instant. For me it was a connection of the heart to an ordinary man who did extraordinary things to bring our POWs home.

Marveling at his 57-year marriage that lasted through-out his multiple tours in war zones, I was awed that my husband’s surgery resulted in an unexpected blessing—one that I will long cherish.

Suffering Guaranteed, Blessings Assured

Life guarantees us suffering, hurt, and pain—an inescapable reality for human beings. Out of this condition, however, we are assured of blessings such as the ones I received on the day William had his surgery. As a woman of faith, I am learning that out of suffering comes growth, wisdom, and joy. Learning to endure the hard times enables one to focus on the precious gems that surface from the flames of refinement. Today, I received two gems—a reminder of Molly’s love and the journey into Vietnam with a Colonel who served to bring home our POWs.

Post your Comments:

Have you discovered a gem from your adversity? Please reply below.

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

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.

(131) Just for Fun: Top Dog Names

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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)


Dogwatch.com offers a list of the most popular names for dogs. Molly ranks #7. Dogwatch conducted a social media survey to craft this summary:

1.      Bella

2.      Lucy

3.      Max

4.      Daisy

5.      Bailey

6.      Buddy

7.      Molly

8.      Charlie

9.      Maggie

10.   Sadie

Dogwach.com made a list of popular names by breed of dog. Since German Shepherds and Labradors/Golden Retrievers are popular breeds for service dogs, I’ll share their breeds’ most popular names. For the German Shepherd, Max is tops. For the Lab or Golden Retriever, Bailey is #1. From Miss Molly’s perspective, Rocky is the top service dog name, as she has several friends with that name even though it does not make this list.

Vetstreet.com commented that Bella, Daisy, and Lucy are top dog names for females. Bella made #1 in 2006 when the first book of the Twilight series reached publication. Bella has remained #1 ever since. Max is the #1 male canine name and has been #1 for nine years.

Vetstreet lists the top ten dog names by gender. Molly moved to #5 when pulling out male names. Vetstreet.com conducted its survey from a database of nearly one million dogs for 2014. Most other websites use Vetstreet’s list. With such a large database, clearly Vetstreet is the best, most accurate site for pup names. Here’s its top ten list:

Female Names Male Names
1.      Bella

2.      Daisy

3.      Lucy

4.      Sadie

5.      Molly

6.      Lola

7.      Sophie

8.      Zoey

9.      Luna

10.   Chloe

1.      Max

2.      Charlie

3.      Rocky

4.      Buddy

5.      Cooper

6.      Duke

7.      Bear

8.      Zeus

9.      Bentley

10.   Toby

Naming your service dog or new pet can be fun although for most of us, our service dogs already bear the name given to them by the trainer or previous owner. So many well-trained service dogs began Molly's facetheir adult life as rescue animals already named. Once the dog is trained with a name, it is difficult to rename the dog without adding confusion to his/her training. We thought Molly fit her name with her red hair and freckles.

As for the most unusual of names, William named one of his dogs Dog (pronounced Do-jè, as in D – O – G). Our other dogs were named Fritz, Jake, Bridgett, and Tigger. As for cats, we’ve had Dandy Lyon, Rachmaninoff, Mozart (Moses for short), Sassy, Lucy, and, of course, Morris. Our big birds bore the names Zelda, Dakota, and Sammy.

Post your Comments:

What is the most unusual name you’ve given one of your pets? Please reply below.

Photo credits: 123rf.com (except for Molly pics)

Sources cited:

  • http://www.dogwatch.com/dogtails/2015/08/27/the-most-popular-dog-names-of-2015/
  • http://www.vetstreet.com/most-popular-puppy-names-of-2014

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.

(126) When Microchipping Doesn’t Help: POW/MIA

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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)


The Microchipped Pet

When Molly came home with us, our first trip with her landed us in the veterinarian’s office. We needed her microchipped because of her value as a service animal. The nurse’s quick scan told us she already bore a chip beneath her shaggy coat. While she never wanders too far from home, the microchip will make sure Molly returns to us if she gets lost in pursuit of deer or wild turkeys.

Not just service animals are microchipped. Millions of owners of canines in the US bought the same insurance to bring their pets home if lost. Rabbits, cats, penguins, large birds, farm animals, and Guinea pigs often receive the chip for their recovery, as well. Lost animals with this identification method are often reunited quickly with their families.

If only it could be that easy to bring home our warriors lost or imprisoned in war.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day

Let it be known far and wide around this great nation and around this great world that this nation does not forget its POWs, and for certain, does not forget its MIAs and the families they represent.

September 18, 2015, is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. July 18, 1979, was the first time to publically acknowledge and recognize Prisoners of War (POW) and those Missing in Action (MIA). Today, the third Friday in September, we reflect on those who were imprisoned during war and the 83,000 whose bodies still remain lost. The American Legion advocates for POWs and MIAs. The Legion describes the intent of this day as honoring “the commitment and sacrifices made by this nation’s prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action, as well as their families.” (The American Legion)

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reports that out of the 83,000 still missing, 75 percent were lost in Asia-Pacific and over 41,000 are presumed lost at sea. (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) The breakdown of the total missing personnel is as follows:

  • World War II, 73,515
  • Korean War, 7,841
  • Vietnam War, 1,626
  • Cold War, 126
  • Iraq and other conflicts, 6

Responsibility to Account for US Service Members

As of 2011, responsibility to account for our Service Members rests with the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, which is now the Department of Defense (DoD). The DoD is tasked with not only accounting for but finding and bringing home our Service Members. “This includes rescue, recovery, and reintegration of captured or missing personnel through diplomatic means . . . . The policy of the US to never offer remuneration for the return of captured personnel, serves as a deterrent to hostage takers and is one of the keys to protecting our service members.”

The efforts of the DoD to recover our MIAs appears extraordinary, with the most recent listed Service Member recovery being 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, USMC, Company F., 2nd battalion, Marines Regiment, Marine Division. Lt. Bonnyman was accounted for on August 27 of this year. He was lost for 73 years in Tawara (2,400 miles south of Pearl Harbor) on November 22, 1943.

Reduction in Number Lost

Seeing the reduction in the number of Service Members missing in action from WWII to the present by conflict reveals significant improvements. The DoD suggested that the reduction in MIAs is attributed to preventing or preparing Service Members, civilians, and contractors for isolation, and training to provide proper  response in the event they are captured. The DoD credits technology, comprehensive planning, training and education, and improved command and control as additional reasons for the decline.

Still, even one missing Service Member is one too many but what a relief to know that the DoD is diligent about this effort and is having a huge impact upon the families of warriors who are being brought home with dignity and honor.

Bringing Her Home

Molly snuck out one evening when I welcomed a friend into our home. Thinking she was sleeping in the closet, I turned off lights and headed to bed after visiting with my friend. Moments later, two young people knocked on the door with Miss Molly in tow.

“Is this your dog? I think her tag said she lives here.” The young woman stroked Molly’s ears.

William and I expressed our gratitude. We spent the next hour loving Molly, rejoicing with her repatriation to the safety of our home.

How much more so must a family feel when their warrior or loved one returns home? Offering a sense of closure, knowing they are now home, must bring tremendous peace and yet so much sorrow. This gift offers dignity to the Service Member and the family that grieved so long not knowing . . . . Now, only peace and honor intertwine with the American flag as the warrior is laid to rest. He is no longer missing in action. He is finally home.

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Are you surprised by the statistics of the number of Service Members still MIA? Please reply below.

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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.

(111) To the Rescue

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)


The paw-shaped bumper sticker caught my attention despite its grammatical error. It read, “Who Rescued Who?” The meaning flashed into my head, as I wished Molly had accompanied us to Costco to help William. The noise, the crowd, and my shopping speed pressed against my husband, nearly pushing him over the edge. Molly would have comforted him with her presence and helped him balance when the clerk jerked the cart away from my Veteran as he leaned against it.

The company we bought Molly from acquired her as a rescue dog. The family that raised her from a pup could no longer afford to feed her. It did not take long for our trainer to identify her as a perfect fit to help William. Not only is her mixed breed as a Saint Bernard/Great Pyrenees perfect for a service animal, her strength and girth made her the best candidate to help my 6’ 4” Veteran with balance.

While we saved Molly from certain doom, Molly is the one who saved us. She prevented me from falling many times while undergoing chemotherapy and she assists William daily with PTSD and his balance issues.

Veterans tell me their service dogs changed their lives, too. Many refer to their service animals as lifesavers, best friends, indispensable, or as their only connection with the world. A female Veteran told me her service dog is her soul mate. Wow, we should declare a National Service Dog month.

Is There Really a National Service Dog Month?

September is National Service Dog month. This will be the perfect time to thank our service dogs. Get ready now, as we owe it to our canine lifesavers to thank them for their contributions to our Veterans and to others with disabilities.

As for now, William and I are preparing for Miss Molly’s birthday, which we will celebrate on August 1. Before my husband’s diabetes and Molly’s weight problem, I would have baked a white cake with layers of icing and dog bones to top the cake. Now, we will settle with a walk down the hill, a romp among the wild flowers, and an extra can of food in her evening meal.

Thunder Coat to the Rescue 

Molly seeks comfort with William in stormAs an early birthday gift, William bought Molly a Thunder Shirt thanks to Tina Y., a loyal Molly Blog reader and dear friend. Tina told us about a coat she bought for her dog that wraps around the dog to help reduce anxiety during thunderstorms. Living in Tesla Land*, electrical storms strike in summer as often as the sun sets. Molly detests the thunder and shivers with lightening. She insists on jumping into any lap available when a storm hits so she makes a good candidate for the apparel.

Molly loves her new coat. It fits snugly and lends a sense of well-being and safety. TheMolly relaxes in her thunder coat manufacturer claims that the Thundershirt controls barking, leash pulling, and anxiety from separation, noise, traveling, and more. Trainers use the coat for behavioral issues. What a great gift for the important canine in your life.

If only they could make a Thunder coat for the Veteran to reduce PTSD anxiety!

*Nikola Tesla, nicknamed, The Master of Lightening, invented many things electrical, including designing alternating current. He experimented in our city in the late 1800s because of the amazing electrical storms. At his experimental station on the prairie near Pikes Peak Mountain, Tesla inadvertently took down the entire electrical grid of our city, becoming despised among the population. He also claimed he received radio waves from outer space. Our city is home to NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, so maybe Tesla really did communicate with outer space from our mountain.

Join the Molly blog team on Friday, July 31, as we celebrate Miss Molly’s birthday one day early.

Post your Comments: 

How do you celebrate your pet’s birthday? 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.