(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.

(28) Do Dogs Cry? About the emotional service dog

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)


Did you know that a large dog can handle up to nine Benadryl a day for intense allergies? Of course, Molly weighs 130 pounds so she has plenty of girth to handle the heavy dose. Since she started tangling with the scrub oak, our medical instructions include the high dosage of Benadryl and an antibiotic. When William takes one Benadryl at night, it knocks him out. In the past when I suffered from allergies, I took one and slept for 18 hours.

Even drugged, Molly still manages to show up for a meal or at the sound of the treat canister sliding across the counter. She hangs her head low and raises those brown eyes, revealing blood-shot sclera (the white part of the eye—had to look that one up in Wikipedia).

Her ears droop and her tail sags as she swaggers back into the closet after a treat. If an animal displays an emotion, Molly’s mood resembles sadness and hurt from betrayal. She knows her food and treats taste differently and that we are responsible for the change. After every treat, lethargy sets in. Lifting her head or wagging her tail exceeds her physical limits.

If Molly is capable of showing sadness or hurt, then maybe dogs really do cry. Confused on the matter, I asked my husband. He used to raise Rhodesian Ridgebacks so I figured he knew the answer.

“Of course, they cry—just like people.”

“Have you ever seen a dog cry?” It sounded silly to ask. I felt confident his response would be “no” or laughter.

“Yes.” William went back to reading his notepad. He felt assured of his answer.

I remembered reading an article about a police dog that showed great emotion at the funeral for his Royal Canadian Mountie, who was shot and killed along with two other Mounties in the commission of their duties. The article said that Danny, the canine partner of one the Mounties, whimpered during the funeral. At the time, I dismissed it as Canadian sentimentality over the tragic deaths. (For the article and photos, click here.)

After watching Molly react to our medicating her and how she responds to William’s panic attacks, I am convinced that dogs do cry . . ., laugh . . ., get depressed . . ., and care deeply about the people they love. I suppose that is what makes a PTSD dog so helpful. The dog empathizes with the veteran, sharing his or her pain.

Since Molly came to stay with us, only twice has she shown distasteful, raw emotion. In both cases, she bared her teeth and growled at the man walking towards me. She would not let either man get near me even though I knew both of them and told her it was okay to visit. Perplexed by her emotional outbursts on these two occasions, we finally realized that the only thing both men shared in common was their name—George.

Whenever someone asks us if it is okay to approach Miss Molly, we tell them, “Sure, as long as your name isn’t George.”

Post your Comments:

What has your dog done to tell you he or she feels emotions? Please comment below.

About the blogger

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