(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.

(164) Greyhound Bus or Greyhound Dog–Which One Loves the Veteran?

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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 Foibles of Greyhound 

Earlier this month, the DOJ (Department of Justice) announced it entered into a consent decree with Greyhound Lines, Inc., the largest provider of intercity bus transportation services in the US to correct violations of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Acts). Apparently, the DOJ received complaints about the bus line that it denied access to individuals using wheelchairs and the disabled with service dogs.

The consent decree stated that Greyhound will make reforms, including adding wheelchair lifts, changing its policy to require assisting customers with disabilities, employee training, implementation of a system that allows those with disabilities to make reservations just like the general public, and making accommodations for those with disabilities when transferring to other bus lines on a continuous trip. Additionally, Greyhound will pay $75,000 in civil penalty to the US and compensate an open-ended number of passengers, who experienced disability discrimination during the three years prior to the consent decree. An additional sum of $300,000 will be paid to certain passengers identified by the DOJ, who were discriminated against because of their disability.

That’s a whole lot of love to go around to those with disabilities, who were discriminated against including Veterans!

Apparently, the DOJ feels the love, too, remarking, “Today’s agreement marks a major step toward fulfilling the promise of the ADA, and we applaud Greyhound for entering the consent decree.” 

Unusual Service Dogs 

William and I met a young Veteran at the VA with a pit bull for a service dog. The high-spirited animal behaved perfectly despite the dog’s high energy and desire to lick everyone nearby. The dog offered much more than help with the young man’s TBI. This service animal steadied his Veteran and assisted the Veteran in managing his PTSD. While a pit bull seemed an unlikely service dog, the Veteran assured me the dog aced his 18-month training period.

Although fooled by the high-performing pit bull, I expected the greyhound would not make the list of likely service animals. In doing a bit of research, I found an unusual pairing of the National Greyhound Foundation with the Inmate Prison Partnership that matches a prisoner with a retiring racing greyhound to train the dog as a service animal. The sponsoring website of the Purple Heart Greyhound Service Dogs features a number of well-trained greyhounds and shares the stories of Veterans and their greyhound service animals. The site states that greyhounds make excellent service animals for PTSD given their temperament and physical characteristics.

Viewing the faces of the Veterans and their service dogs, one clearly sees the love the greyhounds hold for their Veterans.

The Verdict 

To answer the question of which loves the Veteran, Greyhound Lines or the Greyhound service dog, Molly declares a clear winner as the Greyhound service dog.

Post your Comments:

Have you ever had problems taking public transportation with your service animal? Please reply below. 

Sources cited:

  • US Department of Justice Weekly Digest Bulletin dated February 14, 2016.
  • US v. Greyhound Lines, Inc. Consent Decree dated February 10, 2016, Civil Action No. 16-67-RGA.

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.

 

(128) Veterans and Service Animals in the News

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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 fumed and fretted with the latest news reports. Normally, she does not care about the news but today she could not resist with headlines of stolen service dogs and a Veteran with his service dog being denied access to fly on American Airlines. Today, the Molly Blog shares the story about public access being denied to a Marine Veteran and his service animal, who “saved my life.”

Top Service Dog Gets the Boot 

Marine Corps Veteran Jason Haag intended to return home with his wife and service dog, Axel, on an American Airline flight this week. When questioned by the airline, Haag produced an ID card for his service dog, which is not required by law, and answered questions about the tasks the dog performs to assist him. His dog also wore a harness and service vest. Still, the airline representative told him he could not board with his dog. The representative asked numerous questions in violation of federal law (ADA) and accused Captain Haag of having a fraudulent ID in front of nearly 200 people, including five airline managers and supervisors.

The curious part of the story is that Mr. Haag made arrangements with American Airlines in advance of his flight, registering the dog with the airline’s disability office. He had flown with his service animal on the same airline eight days earlier.

The ironic part of the story is that American Airlines booted Haag and Axel on their way home from attending the American Humane Association’s Fifth Annual Hero Dog Awards 2015 where Axel won the award in the Service Dog Category.

After legal help from the attorney for the American Humane Society, American Airlines allowed Haag, his wife, and service animal to fly home the followingMolly's sniffer face day. The airline apologized after an earlier statement, claiming that Mr. Haag was not denied the flight but chose not to take the flight.

Molly’s response to the airline’s initial position: It doesn’t pass the sniff test.

CONGRATULATIONS, AXEL, ON YOUR SERVICE DOG OF THE YEAR AWARD!

Good News Coming

In Tuesday’s blog, Molly will share the story of a service dog reunited with his Afghanistan Veteran after eight months of separation.

Post your Comments: 

Have you ever tried to fly with your service dog? How would you describe that experience and what advice would you offer a Veteran when flying with his/her service animal? Please reply below. 

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

Source cited:

  • Shapiro, Emily. “Veteran accuses American Airlines stopping service dog boarding.” ABC News on September 22, 2015, as retrieved on September 22, 2015, at http://abcnews.go.com/US/veteran-accuses-american-airlines-stopping-service-dog-boarding/story?id=33943749

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.

(127) So a Pig, a Fish, and an Iguana Go Into a Restaurant . . .

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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)


While ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) only acknowledges dogs and miniature horses as candidates for valid service animals, there is plenty of room for other animals to help a disabled individual. (For a refresher on what qualifications must be met to take a service animal into a public place, see Blog #6.)

A Service Animal is Not a Pet who is an Animal, who is also a Pet . . . Say What? 

Service animals work around the clock. They do not get time off and must be ready to assist their Veteran any time of day or night. As disabled Veterans will tell you, their service animals are also their best friends.

Even though a service animal is not a pet when in public, the animal does double duty as a best friend and companion during private time with its owner. Animals—not just dogs and miniature horses, offer emotional support and companionship. While these pets are not trained as service animals nor do they qualify for access to public places as service animals, they are nonetheless important to their owners.

A Menagerie of Possibilities

So, what animals make great pets? Petacular suggested it all depends on how much time you want to spend with them. Some animals are independent and wish to be left alone, such as a turtle, which scavenges for its own food outdoors and is happiest when left alone. Others insist on sitting in your lap whenever you sit, such as a cat. Others are fun to watch and only need their aquarium cleaned regularly with routine feeding. 

Petacular’s top five most popular small pets are:

  1. Guinea pig with a lifespan of five to ten years
  2. Gecko with a lifespan up to 20 years
  3. Rabbit with the lifespan between five and ten years
  4. Parrot with a lifespan up to 80 years (need a life estate for this pet)
  5. Betta fish with a life span up to three years

The NCHPAD blog listed five pets well suited for training to help with disabilities. These include Capuchin monkeys; ferrets; pot-bellied pigs; and snakes, specifically the boa constrictor. Reportedly, the boa constrictor squeezes the neck of his owner when a seizure is on-coming, reminding the owner to take his medication. The website included a fun-to-watch U-Tube video on how Panda, a miniature horse, is trained, to help with disabilities, which you can view on the NCHPAD blog. 

Animalplanet.com adds to the list of pets with nine others:

  1. Capybara, which is not sociable and bites kids
  2. Stick insect, which is easy to care for (and could make a great snack)
  3. Donkey, but they are big—200 to 350 pounds so not the best in a New York apartment
  4. Hedgehog, which is said to be gentle and easy to care for
  5. Pigmy goat—needs a shelter of at least 8’ by 10’ and lots of weeds, which makes it a good pet if you have a big yard but not so good if you have wall-to-wall carpet
  6. Sugar gliders, a member of the possum family, coming from Australia; an easy-care pet that loves people but has sharp teeth
  7. Kangaroo, but only if you own a park
  8. Skunk; you can remove their scent glands, neuter or spay them, teach them to use a litter box, feed them like cats and you have a perfect, sociable skunk—but it is still a skunk
  9. Cockroach . . . I cannot even go there!

Never Consider these Animals as Pets 

Emotional support or not, Animal Planet recommends you never consider these animals as pets:

1.                   Bald Eagle 2.                   Gator
3.                   Octopus 4.                   Bear
5.                   Marsupial such as a Koala 6.                   Tapir
7.                   Lemur, but I really want one 8.                   Beavers
9.                   Aardvark 10.               Bullfinch

 Hey, Animal Planet, what about elephants, rhinos, turkey vultures, and mosquitos?

Service Animals Go Public

Just because your pet is not a legal service animal does not mean it cannot help you deal with your disabilities, as most of the pets mentioned above are trainable, intelligent, and want to please. Just remember, however, that unless you and your pet meet the ADA standards, you cannot go public with your pet unless it is to a dog park.

As for the title of this blog, Miss Molly showed no humor when I started the joke, “So a pig, a fish, and an iguana go into a restaurant–” As Miss Molly knows, they are not permitted in public.

Post your Comments: 

What is the most unusual pet you know of that helps someone with disabilities? 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.

(123) Click those Double Dewclaws: Army Cyber Command

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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 Dark Side of Star Wars 

This Christmas, Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits the big screen to take us on a remake journey through space. The first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, aired in 1977—just two years after I graduated from high school and nearly ten years after William returned from Vietnam. Our nation dropped its jaw with vivid images of Darth Vader and an indestructible army, flaunting our vulnerability to alien cultures and the dark side powerful enough to destroy planets. 

Stars and Stripes released an article this week titled, “Army creating cyber unit using soldiers and civilians” by Seth Robson. Coming out of Yokota Air Base, the article reported that Cyber Command has established 20 cyber units with plans to add 21 more by the end of next year, according to Lt. Gen Cardon. The article described fantastic operations that led me to the world of US Cyber Command.

USCYBERCOM

Thirty-three years after Star Wars blasted into American life, the Army birthed USCYBERCOM, an operational-level Army force linked with the Second Army. Its mission is summarized below:

USCYBERCOM plans, coordinates, integrates, synchronizes, and conducts activities to: direct the operations and defense of specified Department of Defense information networks and; prepare to, and when directed, conduct full-spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains, ensure US/Allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny the same to our adversaries.

(USCYBERCOM website)

Lauding credit for 2015 USCYBERCOM accomplishments, the White House posted a lengthy Fact Sheet. Accomplishments focus on the sharing of information between government agencies; new cybersecurity legislation; public private security collaboration; cybersecurity training; secure purchasing; creation of a Cyberthreat office; threat blockage programs; and, new coalitions with Brazil, India, Japan, UK, and the Gulf states.

USCYBERCOM’s efforts will also support the Armed Services’ ability to confidently conduct high-tempo, effective operations as well as protect command and control systems and the cyberspace infrastructure supporting weapons system platforms from disruptions, intrusions and attacks.

(USCYBERCOM website)

Public Access

The Molly Blog often refers to public access as a term in ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) that allows service animals access to public places. USCYBERCOM wants service dogs and their Veterans to have full access to cyber information. Let’s give ‘em a high paw!

At the Army Cyber web site, we want all viewers to be able to have equal access to important cyber security information. USCYBERCOM website

Looking for Cyber Warriors 

USCYBERCOM is gearing up in a time when technology changes as fast as we change undergarments. With the goal to add 21 more cyber teams in the next year, the organization actively recruits for cyber warriors, both civilian and military to employ a total of 1,899 personnel. Applications are being taken for Cyber Threat Analysts, Security Specialists, Management Analysts, Intelligence Operations Specialists, and more. To check out these opportunities, visit the USCYBERCOM job site.

An Unplugged Dog

I must admit that I am at a loss for understanding much of the available information on cybersecurity. I am part of the vintage Star Wars era where there were no personal computers, cell phones, or televisions without antennas–a time when spam was an inexpensive meal. There is so much more to USCYBERCOM and its methods to protect Americans than I could ever share in a blog.

Molly shares my dinosaur traits. Television bores her unless HGTV rings a doorbell, in which case we have to tell her stand down lest she attack a non-existent intruder. The closest she will get to a keyboard is the clicking sound her double dewclaws make crossing our wood floor.

Molly and I rejoice, however, in the efforts of the US Army to keep us safe in space. After all, space is the one frontier where service animals and their Veterans can go without fear of being denied public access.

Post your Comments: 

What was your reaction the first time you watched the original Star Wars movie? 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.

(119) Loving our Veterans: Volunteering with the VA

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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)


From Working Girl to Volunteer 

Quite by accident, Miss Molly discovered volunteerism on her last visit to the Denver Veterans’ Administration (VA) Hospital. It began when our alarm screamed to life at 6:30 am. From the minute we rose from slumber until we hit the road, we fought the clock to make our two-hour commute. In the pandemonium, we forgot Miss Molly’sMolly is dressed in her service vest service vest. ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) does not require a service animal to wear a vest or display any working insignia; however, we dress her because when she dons the vest, she knows she works.

Molly never ventured out without her service vest so on this visit, we held our breath, hoping Miss Molly would behave as a service animal. Unfortunately, we found out just how cantankerous she can be in public without her vest. She dragged William across hospital floors, drooled at snacks in bags and on laps of Veterans, and lounged when William needed her for brace and balance.

Do Not Pet on service vestIt was not all bad, however, as we discovered Molly’s talent for comforting and cheering Veterans. Because she did not wear her vest displaying the “Do Not Pet” patch, Veterans and hospital workers felt free to rub her head, scratch her ears, and even encompass her with a hug. We gave up trying to keep her at a distance from Veterans. I handled her much of the day because William’s appointments called him into rooms too small to accommodate him and Molly. Many people commented, “It’s wonderful of you to bring her into the hospital to comfort us.” I could not bear to explain she serves as a service dog for only one Veteran. After all, on this day, she became a volunteer, whose only purpose was to calm, cuddle, and comfort the Veterans around her.

How Humans can Support Veterans 

I knew the VA used volunteers to shuttle patients around the hospital, as William often receives that service. I did not know, however, how big and well organized the volunteer network is within the VA. The VA lists plenty of opportunities to volunteer at http://www.volunteer.va.gov/index.asp. Specific volunteer listings include corporate volunteerism, student volunteer program, National Salute to Veteran Patients, President’s United We Serve, Volunteer Transportation Network, Homeless, National Cemetery, Pet Therapy, and Welcome Home Events. (For an inspirational volunteer message by actor Gary Sinise, click on the video on the volunteer webpage.)

The VA makes it easy to volunteer by contacting the Volunteer Coordinator at any VA Hospital or through an on-line contact form. You can also donate directly through this link. One hundred percent of donations go to programs for Veterans.

We needed our warriors and other members of the military to serve and protect our nation. Now, our Veterans need us to serve and care for them. Join Miss Molly and the VA’s volunteers in supporting our Veterans.

Post your Comments: 

Can you think of a way your employer might help Veterans by supporting a volunteer event or project? 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.

(112) Reason to Celebrate: Another Legal Victory for Veterans and their Service Dogs

 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 headlines read, “Vet wins service-dog trial.” We celebrate this victory thanks to Juan Alonzo-Miranda and his service dog, Goldie, who took on Schlumberger Technology Corp. of Texas for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Alonzo-Miranda’s attorney commented to the San Antonio Express-News, “Today is a blue-ribbon day for America and the veterans who have protected us. San Antonio can be proud to be the place that lit the way for our veterans who suffer PTSD and who served us so well in war, and now want to serve us in peace.”

Alonzo-Miranda received a settlement of $5,386.50 for lost overtime wages due to his employer’s failure to provide reasonable accommodations for his disability. He also received $23,205 in compensatory damages for pain and suffering.

Veteran Alonzo-Miranda served two tours in Iraq as a Marine and one with the Texas National Guard. The San Antonio Express-News reported that he was honored for fighting in some of the war’s fiercest combat. He served as a mechanic on large oil field equipment when employed by Schlumberger.

Goldie is an eight-year old female Labrador mix trained for PTSD services by the nonprofit organization, Train a Dog-Save a Warrior. According to court documents, Alonzo-Miranda’s employer required him to submit a number of medical reports and documentation explaining why he needed the dog at work and what other accommodations could be made instead of the service animal. ADA does not permit an employer to make such a request. It took Schlumberger six months to approve Alonzo-Miranda’s request to bring his service dog to work. The company terminated his employment shortly after he filed the lawsuit.

Juan Alonzo-Miranda joins Veteran Jeffrey Crockett in Miss Molly’s Golden Paw Award program for daring to challenge the system and prevailing! Because of the courage and tenacity of these two Veterans, life will be a bit easier for other Veterans and their service animals. Truly, news of this victory makes it a good day to celebrate!

Happy Birthday, Miss Molly 

DSCN2301Although August 1 is the date we chose as Miss Molly’s birthday, we celebrate today to share her birthday party with you. We cannot be there when you celebrate your service animal’s birthday so perhaps we can share this day together on behalf of all service dogs. Happy Birthday, Miss Molly, and to all of you wonderful service animals across the country. We know our Veterans rely on you and that you make their lives more manageable.

Miss Molly comments, “Happy Birthday, fellow pup’sters and congrats, Goldie. You give us plenty of reason to celebrate! Bark-outs to you all.”

Post your Comments: 

Do you have a story of a Veteran, who challenged an ADA violation and prevailed? Please reply below. 

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

Sources cited:

  • Danner, Patrick. “Vet wins service-dog trial” in March 23, 2015, San Antonio Express-News as retrieved on July 29, 2015.
  • Danner, Patrick. “Iraq War veteran’s service dog trial set to start” in March 16, 2015, San Antonio Express-News as retrieved on July 29, 2015.

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.

(106) When Reason is an Excuse: Busting the Myths about Going Back to School

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 Difference Between a Reason and an Excuse

One of my Veteran’s favorite lines from a movie is, “There’s no difference between a reason and an excuse.” When I offer reasons why Molly misbehaves, my husband levels his favorite line at me, reminding me that Molly is a service dog and must perform just like a prosthetic leg. While she performs admirably most of the time, occasionally she forgets her training and manners. It is the same response, “No excuse.”

What does this have to do with going back to school? As an adjunct professor for 17 years and a long-time city manager, I heard every excuse imaginable for any and every situation. I encourage adults, regardless of age, to go back to school when they aimlessly wander, telling me they do not fit in society. Others complain they are stuck in a dead-end job or are unfulfilled in their careers. I suggest they get a degree or a certificate, take an on-line class, or check out their local community college for interesting classes. Often, those searching for purpose stumble away, mumbling, “I just have to figure it out.”

So Figure it Out

My favorite line is from the movie, Bourne Identity. When Jason Bourne tells his companion, “I have to figure it out,” referring to why assassins are trying to kill him after he experiences amnesia, his companion responds, “So figure it out.”

That is where education comes in—it helps you figure things out. Education gives you the time and space to think through issues and problems in life. It offers a safe environment for thinking and rethinking your personal philosophy. School offers comradery by bringing others with similar mindsets together to resolve crises. It equips you with information to find your way. It empowers, praises, and challenges while teaching you how to overcome obstacles.

So why don’t the masses head for the local university or jump online for a free course? Molly, William, and I created a list of reasons for not going back to school accompanied by a response about why it is just an excuse. Let us bust the myths to encourage you to take the plunge and start your education today! Here are the first five.

 Top Five Reasons for Not Going Back to School  

Myth #

Reason is an Excuse

Busted Myth

1

I’m too old Nope, you’re never too old for school. Leo Plass graduated from Eastern Oregon University at the age of 99. Nola Ochs graduated at the age of 95 from Fort Hayes University in Kansas; she went on to earn her Master’s degree at the age of 98. If they can do it, so can you.

2

I’m too busy We all have the same number of hours in the day—24. School teaches you to organize your day and discard less important things that occupy your time. Efficiency comes naturally once you take the plunge into your education, especially for someone trained by the military.

3

I’m not smart enough That’s why school is perfect for you—to get smarter.

4

I’m disabled and there are at least 100 stairs to get to the administration building School is a public place and, therefore, must meet ADA guidelines. Schools offer accessibility for every disability, and must make reasonable accommodations for you. This might include arranging special parking, giving you a note-taker, offering someone to push your wheelchair, driving you to your location, or most anything else you need. By the way, the (DOJ) Department of Justice took on MIT and Harvard for failure to offer reasonable accommodations for their free on-line school and changes are being made.

5

I can’t afford school The VA offers tremendous financial benefits for Veterans and educational incentives for their families (ask if you qualify for vocational rehab). States offer various incentives, which may include educational benefits for Veterans and their families. Be sure to check out your school’s financial aid office, as they will connect you with grants and other monetary aide. You can find free on-line programs such as Coursera, which coordinates free classes with universities worldwide.

Reasons/Excuses and Myth Busting continues in Miss Molly’s Friday blog

Post your Comments: 

What is your excuse for not going back to school? 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.

(103) Part II: Interview with Veteran Jeffrey Crockett

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)

In Tuesday’s Miss Molly Blog, we printed the first part of an interview with Veteran Jeffrey Crockett about his discrimination lawsuit against the Days Inn in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the first part, we introduced Jeff and his family, including his service dog, Phineas. This blog concludes the interview, as Jeff talks about his reaction to the settlement and his plans for the future.

Jeff’s Reaction to the Settlement

Veteran Jeffrey CrockettReading about the settlement against the Days Inn, I wanted to know Jeff’s reaction and the impact the process had on his family. It surprised me that the cash settlement for his hardship and suffering was minimal. Jeff shared with me his satisfaction with the outcome because the hotel was held accountable for its actions and the settlement included measures to prevent discrimination from occurring against others with service animals. In reference to the damages paid to the family, Jeff responded, “I believe the amount should have been higher than it was. A higher penalty would have ensured that the business would do everything possible to avoid another incident in order to protect its finances.”

Jeff shared that the incident had a huge impact on his life. He suffered severe panic attacks and depression. “I was unable to function for days after the incident and spent most of my time hidden in my house behind the computer, avoiding life and immersing myself in an online world as far away from reality as possible.” The experience left him unable to go outside or in public.

Jeff’s wife, Jennifer, expressed helplessness, watching the event unfold. To this day, she feels apprehensive when making reservations and when accompanying him with his service dog, fearing that they will experience similar rejection. His oldest son also expresses the same fear when accompanying his father and Phineas into a business for the first time.

What would you do differently?

Jeff said he would not do anything differently if a discrimination situation happened again. He advises Veterans not to be afraid to stand up for their rights. “But don’t allow yourself to be baited into a situation where you become the aggressor.” He suggested taking notes to include the date, time, and location of the incident and names/positions of anyone with whom they speak. While he called the police emergency line when the hotel denied him a room, he said he would only recommend that as a last resort.

“My sincere hope is that this action will encourage disabledPhineas tanning on the beach Veterans with service animals to have the courage to stand up to those who would discriminate against them. I also hope this action will help make businesses more aware of the legal costs associated with discriminating against disabled Veterans and their service animals, and force them to educate their staff regarding ADA guidelines and laws.”

Going Forward

Jeff mentioned he had problems initially moving forward. He explained that standing up and fighting for his rights helped him feel better about himself. The fight and victory helped him deal with the pain he felt from the discrimination. “Winning the lawsuit vindicated me by restoring my sense of self-worth.”

When asked about his next challenge, Jeff said, “to continue moving forward and doing my best to deal with my disabilities as best I can. I will continue to stand up for the rights of myself and others, and I will continue to fight against my biggest enemy, myself, while striving to be the best husband, father, son, and citizen that I can be.”

Awesome Crockett

Crockett family with Mickey Mouse

Phineas accompanies six members of the Crockett family on a much deserved R&R with Mickey Mouse

The Graft household and the Miss Molly Team congratulates Jeffrey Crockett for daring to challenge the discrimination and for making it easier for all of us with service animals. We are sorry the Crockett family had to experience this but we are thankful he fought this battle and prevailed. 

Post your Comments: 

Are you apprehensive when entering a business for the first time with your service animal or when accompanying your spouse with a service animal? Please reply below. 

Photo credits: Crockett family pictures provided by Mr. 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.