Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Western Store – Take 2

Most of you are familiar with the recent story about the Western Store and Mr. Robert Bryant, the now infamous anti-Service Dog, Robert Bryant. The gentleman who with his simple statement, “I don’t care about the law, get that ‘damn’ dog out of my store,” found out just how fast the internet can transform words into instant outrage. The gentleman who now knows the power of a little girl with disabilities and her Service Dog, ELLIE. The businessman who now knows there are laws that he MUST follow when it comes to Service Dogs and their partners. The businessman who now teeters between staying in business and going out of business, all for the want of “not knowing” the law. The audacity to be so unkind, so unsympathetic, not to mention his ability to display a new standard in customer service, to a Mother with a child with disabilities and a Service Dog, may set Mr. Bryant apart from the “normal” businessman. I am sure Mr. Bryant will not soon forget his Monday afternoon of March 29th.

After being besieged by the press, both local and national, the public, the internet, and the “law,” Mr. Bryant also learned the definition of compassion and forgiveness as Dr. Susan Ivancevich, her daughter Amanda, and her Service Dog ELLIE, accepted Mr. Bryant’s apology on Friday, April 2nd. Mr. Bryant’s apology was coupled with his promise to follow the laws pertaining to individuals with disabilities and their Service Dogs being allowed into his Western Store.

Life has taught me that apologies and promises are cheap and easily obtained when they are given under duress and potential looming legal action. So as an old adage goes “trust, but verify,” I could not be in Wilmington without visiting the Western Store, along with my sidekick, CHAENEY, a certified Psychiatric Service Dog. I was also accompanied by a paws4vetsTM Client, HM2 Buf Kloppenborg, USN, and his certified Psychiatric Service Dog, SALLY. So in the late morning of Thursday, April 8th, I drove into the parking lot of the Western Store. I was prepared for the worst and hoping for the best.

CHAENEY and I entered the store. There was a sales clerk standing inside the cash register platform area. I walked up to the sales clerk and asked, in a half serious and half joking manner, “Are you going to kick us out of the store?” To which I received, “No, can I help you find anything in particular?” I was relieved and happy. I said again, “Are you sure no one will kick me out of the store?” Once again the lady answered, “No.” Then I told her I had a military member and his Service Dog outside, and they were interested in looking at boots, but before I would let him come into the store I needed to know that they would be welcome. She assured me that they would be welcome and that she would welcome the opportunity to show him their boots. I then went back outside and told Buf that he and SALLY were welcome to come into the store, which they did.

We learned the sales clerk was named Belinda. She was very gracious and helpful. She escorted Buf and SALLY over to the “boot section,” and began to converse with Buf about the Navy and SALLY, while showing Buf many different pairs of boots.

As fifteen minutes passed, and Buf and Belinda were trying on pair after pair of boots, an elderly gentleman entered the retail area of the store through a door in the rear of the area. I recognized him as Mr. Robert Bryant. He explained that he was cutting the grass as I approached him. I introduced myself to him and we exchanged a friendly handshake.

As he approached me, CHAENEY, who had been laying on a rug on the floor, got up and approached Mr. Bryant, in an attempt to greet him (check him out – depending on who prospective you are viewing the situation from). Mr. Bryant rebuked CHAENEY’s approach, so CHAENEY deflected his attention to sniffing a rack of cowboy hats directly beside Mr. Bryant. Mr. Bryant cringed and asked me to not have CHAENEY sniff the hats. I directed CHAENEY to stop and to go back and lay down on the rug, which he did.

I then explained to Mr. Bryant that I was from the organization that trained ELLIE, Amanda’s Service Dog. At this point Mr. Bryant stated that he had no idea that there was a law that required him to let a dog into his store. He continued to say that we would now follow that law and that Service Dog like these dogs, (he pointed to CHAENEY) would be allowed in his store. I thanked Mr. Bryant for that realization on his part.

I then introduced him to Buf (who was on the other side of the rack of boots) and his Service Dog, SALLY. I told Mr. Bryant that Buf was an active-duty Navy Corpsman, with three combat tours in Iraq. Furthermore, that Buf had Complex-PTSD, TBI and Dissociative Amnesia. I related that the only reason Buf was able to come into his store was that SALLY was with him. I told Mr. Bryant about Buf not being able to go out into public before he began working with SALLY, and that--just like Amanda and ELLIE--Buf and SALLY were a team, that could therefore do things together that they would otherwise not be able to do, like shop.

At this point I noticed that Mr. Bryant’s eyes were beginning to “water up.” He spoke in a broken voice stating that he “had nothing but admiration for our servicemen.” He then excused himself and left through the door from which he entered.
Buf and SALLY continued looking for a pair of boots. Much to my joy, they finally found a pair – holy fright – boots costs that much?! Anyway Buf was happy and that’s all that mattered at the moment. As Belinda rang up the sale, Buf and SALLY demoed the “Pay Attention” command. This is where SALLY watches for people to approach Buf from behind him. When a person approaches too closely, (6-8 feet) SALLY will use her nose to nudge Buf’s leg, thus telling him that someone is approaching from behind him. Belinda and a couple of other customers in the store watched in amazement. We all left the store – telling Belinda that we would return the next time we were in Wilmington.

Final Thoughts:

Mr. Bryant is not a “dog” person. His lack of reaction to CHAENEY’s attempt to greet him proves this point – if this point needs to be proven. My suggestion is that every person with a Service Dog in the Wilmington area should pay a visit to the Western Store, thus providing Mr. Bryant with the “desensitization training” he needs to completely understand and appreciate the Service Dog. I will visit him every time I am in Wilmington, and the way our schedule is looking, that could be quite often.

Belinda is perhaps the best aspect of the Western Store. A true professional with a keen sense of customer service and appreciation – Mr. Bryant would do well to consider cutting the grass and letting Belinda run the store.

This situation has been a very important “teachable moment” for the Service Dog community. I wager that there are many more people out there like Mr. Bryant. I don’t need to wager – I know. Within the past three months paws4peopleTM Clients and trainers have experienced first-hand the very uncomfortable and extremely frustrating aftermaths of being challenged by or actually being denied access to public accommodations by persons as ignorant of the Service Dog access laws as Mr. Bryant. These were not small privately owned businesses, which even I can understand Mr. Bryant’s lack of knowledge about these laws. These were huge, publicly traded, international companies, owned by the likes of Wyndham Hotels and Choice Hotels. You would expect that companies of this size would have trained staff who would know the laws. So if large companies are ignorant of the laws, then small companies, without large corporate law staffs, can at least be cut some slack.

Here is where the ignorance becomes extremely harmful –

We spend months working with our Military Clients and their Psychiatric Service Dogs getting them ready to face their Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) symptoms such as agoraphobia, environmentally-induced anxiety or panic attacks, etc. We work hard to build the confidence level between themselves and their dog. This training also includes how to handle treatment such as has been received by employees of Wyndham Hotels, Choice Hotels and yes, even the Western Store. However, no amount of training can prepare a person with agoraphobia, anxiety or panic attacks to handle that type of treatment, especially the arrogant, belligerent, condescending, nasty and mean, delivery of the “get that dog out of here” routine delivered by these people. Or the “you don’t look handicapped – what do you need a ‘Service Dog’ for. The harm which potentially could be inflicted on any person with a Service Dog by someone questioning them or denying them service or access could be catastrophic.

This is why EVERY act of ignorance needs to be taken seriously, and made into a teachable moment.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

WYATT removed from Service

WYATT Removed from Service

Terry Henry, The paws4vetsTM Advocate

Bruceton Mills, WV


Psychiatric Service Dog, WYATT, was removed from Service Dog Team Member Brandon G. on Saturday, March 6th, 2010.

WYATT was placed with Brandon G. at the paws4peopleTM November 2009 Graduation Ceremony, conducted at U.S. Penitentiary–Hazelton, Bruceton Mills, WV. Listed below are incidents that have occurred since graduation which have resulted in WYATT’s removal from the Team Member’s custody:

o Failure to provide proper veterinary care (e.g., no preventative medications have been administered since November (i.e., heartworm preventative and flea and tick preventative), vaccinations have expired (including rabies vaccination), overdue for annual check-up (e.g., heartworm check, leptospirosis check, fecal exam, etc.)
o Inadequate utilization of WYATT, subsequently leading to increased time that WYATT spends in his kennel
o Refusal to follow program requirements (e.g., blogging weekly after placement)
o Failure to complete required Public Access Training for Public Access Certification

WYATT’s next assignment is currently undetermined. When I make my decision regarding WYATT’s final placement, it will be made in the best interest of WYATT and paws4peopleTM / paws4vetsTM.

The safety and care of our dogs is of utmost importance to us. Although taking action to remove a dog from the custody of a Service Dog Team Member is extremely difficult and challenging, the necessary action must be taken when the dog’s well-being is in question.

I sincerely hope that this experience and its lessons will prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Navy Hospital Camp LeJeune Clears the Way for Corpsman to Get His Psychiatric Service Dog

Terry Henry, The paws4vets Advocate
Jacksonville, NC

Click Here for printable version.

The Tuesday meeting was cordial, educational and graciously hosted by Captain Cox, Commanding Officer, U. S. Navy Hospital, Camp LeJeune. We discussed many topics -- some personal, many professional. We learned that all were gathered to put behind us the tumultuous last four months and to start anew in a “mutually” agreed to mission of getting HM2 Buf Kloppenborg his Psychiatric Service Dog, SALLY.

I was honored and proud to personally meet Captain Cox; Captain Aiyelawo, Executive Officer; Command Master Chief Terry Prince; and Mr. Raymond Applewhite, Public Affairs Officer. It was truly a pleasure to meet with four such distinguished military leaders with their knowledge, experience and number of years of dedicated service to our country. I was humbled.

paws4vets was represented by Ms. Kyria Henry, Deputy Executive Director, paws4people, and the Executive Director, paws4prisons. Also present were Mrs. Allison Kaminsky, Director, Medical Evaluation Team, paws4vets; and Mr. Brandon Gregory, Client Advocate, Medical Evaluation Team, paws4vets.

All participated in a lively and informative discussion centered around Psychiatric Service Dogs, including their application, role, training and capabilities. We discussed many issues involving the Navy and the ways in which Captain Cox, his Command, and the personnel on HM2 Kloppenborg’s Treatment Team could support the efforts the gain HM2 Kloppenborg his Psychiatric Service Dog.

The bottom line: HM2 Koloppenborg and SALLY are much closer to becoming a working Service Dog Team than they have ever been.

The following three mission-critical components were agreed to:

1. HM2 Kloppenborg will begin his transfer training on February 2, 2010 at FPC Alderson, Alderson WV. This is one of five U.S. Bureau of Prisons facilities that host the paws4prisons Assistance Dog Training Program. Here, SALLY and HM2 Kloppenborg will begin their transfer training. This training will be conducted under the auspices of the paws4vets’ Medical Evaluation Team and HM2 Kloppenborg’s U.S. Navy Medical/Psychiatric Treatment Teams. This training will take place over the next several months until the point in time where HM2 Kloppenborg and SALLY function together as a team and HM2 Kloppenborg can effectively utilize SALLY to re-integrate into society. HM2 Kloppenborg and SALLY’s transfer training will occur every two-to-four weeks, depending on the ability of HM2 Kloppenborg to cope with the stress and anxiety which will result from the public access training aspects of the transfer training syllabus.

2. HM2 Kloppenborg will be provided TAD orders to accomplish his transfer training requirements.

3. HM2 Kloppenborg’s medical and psychiatric treatment teams and the paws4vets Medical Evaluation Team will be able to collaborate completely and fully in support of HM2 Kloppenborg’s transfer training. In the future, such cooperation shall also be accomplished for each paws4vets Camp LeJeune client, whether Sailor or Marine.

We sincerely appreciate the opportunity we had to meet with the senior Command staff and for the opportunity to get to know and understand each other and each organization’s mission.

I sincerely hope that from the tumultuous beginnings, a new and mutually beneficial long-term relationship can be forged. Such will ensure that Captain Cox and myself, as we both progress through our remaining careers, can bring more Service Dogs with the benefits they bestow, to more Sailors and Marines.

I look forward to working with Captain Cox to make this relationship a reality.

P.S. A very special thanks to my two friends, Mr. Clay Rankin, AW2 Advocate, VA Medical Center, Clarksburg, WV; and Mr. Ed Salau, Charitable Organizations & VSO Program Coordinator, Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, Camp LeJeune. Without their support, friendship, and guidance, I could not have made it through the past few months, and especially the past two days. These guys are true American heroes, and I am honored to know them.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Failure to Comprehend

Follow-up to: Commanding Officer Prevents Navy Corpsman with TBI, PTSD and Dissociative Amnesia from Getting a Service Dog, 12/14/09

Terry Henry, The paws4vets Advocate
Round Hill, VA

Click Here for printable version

I have an overwhelming desire to refrain from responding to Captain Cox’s letter, dated December 24, 2009, (which was posted to this blog on January 9, 2010) for it may appear that I am engaging in a “tit-for-tat” with him. We are also about to meet face-to-face this coming Tuesday and there is a sense that to pour more fuel on the fire may be counterproductive to the ultimate goal of successfully placing a Psychiatric Service Dog with HM2 Kloppenborg. However, the “Assistance Dog Advocacy,” and the “Disabilities Advocacy” side of me compels me to respond to Captain Cox’s letter.
I cannot allow his obvious “Failure to Comprehend” to stand unchallenged.
Disclaimer: Before I go any further I to want to state, for the record, that I have an agenda. I want to place a Psychiatric Service Dog with HM2 Kloppenborg to improve the quality of his life and to possibly keep him from hurting someone. I also want to do everything I can to ensure that the next person who needs a Service Dog does not have to endure the ordeal that HM2 Kloppenborg has had to go through and is still going through. This being said, I will forego my personal desire to dissect and counter almost every line of Captain Cox’s letter and focus on 3 main areas of concern:
Failure to Comprehend 1: The “Quote”
Background: My first article began with the sentence; “Tell him to get a f * * k’n Shih Tzu and he can pet it when he’s sitting at home,” said the sharp, dismissive and flippant voice of U.S. Navy Captain, Gerard R. Cox, Commanding Officer, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, NC.”
Referencing this sentence in his letter to me, Captain Cox states: “Moreover, your assertions that I used profanity and acted in a disdainful, dismissive manner are wholly false and inflammatory.”
The Captain does not dispute the content of the quote; he simply claims not to have used profanity or expressed the quote in a disdainful or a dismissive manner.
The Captain, clearly, DOES NOT recognize the level of INSULT and/or DISREPECT his comment delivers to every person with a working Service/Assistance Dog; people who depend on their dogs for their independence and recovery from various physical, psychiatric and/or emotional disabilities, as well as to those who dedicate their lives to providing these dogs to people with disabilities.
The Captain’s comment, with or without the use of profanity, is INSENSITIVE and DEMEANING to people with disabilities who have a Service Dog/Assistance Dog; while a very small “minority” constituency, they should still be respected. His comment is analogous to making a disparaging “minority” slur, comment, or analogy.
However, it is apparently acceptable in Captain Cox’s view, to disregard the value of a Service Dog. It is also apparently acceptable to disrespect the hundreds of Veterans and Active-duty Service Members who have to rely upon Service Dogs as having no medical, psychological, or emotional need for their Service Dog other than to have “something to pet.”
The use of profanity is simply an “exclamation point” to the comment. Whether it was used, as my reporting indicates, or whether it was not used, as Captain Cox claims, is a minor, irrelevant point. The content/meaning of the quote is what is important – not the adjectives and punctuation utilized to deliver the quote.
I have also discovered that one can often times learn more by analyzing what is not said versus what is said. The silence in Captain Cox’s letter regarding the assertions that “he has nothing but contempt and disdain for Mental Health” is quite telling. A reasonable person could conclude that only a person with less than total/complete respect for and/or understanding of Mental Health issues, such as PTSD, C-PTSD, TBI, etc. would be capable of uttering the “Shih Tzu” quote. The “Shih Tzu” quote would not have even formulated in the mind of a person with such respect and understanding, let alone come out of their mouth.
Failure to Comprehend 2: The “Gift”
The Psychiatric Service Dog HM2 Kloppenborg will be receiving does not come with a ribbon and a bow. It is not being given to him for his birthday or because someone in the paws4vets organization likes him. The dog is not being given to him because he is a combat veteran or a hero. HM2 Kloppenborg will be receiving SALLY, a certified, Psychiatric Service Dog, with full ADA public access certification, because SALLY is a highly trained and sophisticated therapeutic resource that is custom-trained to assist HM2 Kloppenborg with his specific psychiatric disabilities. In HM2 Kloppenborg’s case, SALLY is the only augmentative medical device that can provide him with the psychological and emotional benefits he needs; a fact that has been substantiated by his Navy medical treatment team.
SALLY will be placed with HM2 Kloppenborg under a Conditional Custody Agreement and, as such, will NEVER belong to HM2 Kloppenborg. Legally, SALLY will remain the property of the paws4people foundation. HM2 Kloppenborg will be allowed to use SALLY and benefit from her unique skill set for as long as he needs SALLY’s assistance. In exchange for SALLY’s services, HM2 Kloppenborg must maintain and care for SALLY, educate as many people as he can about SALLY’s role in his life, and (hopefully), his recovery from his psychological disabilities. He will be expected to assist other paws4vets Clients, Veterans or Active-duty Service members, when they get their Service Dogs. [Note: HM2 Kloppenborg and SALLY will not only serve the role of a paws4vets working Client/Dog Team, but also as a paws4vets Veterans’ Advocate and Service Dog Ambassador, educating others about the role of Psychiatric Service Dogs with military service members on behalf of paws4vets.]
There were numerous conversations with HM2 Kloppenborg’s medical treatment team, command officers, and senior non-commissioned officers, explaining that SALLY, would, in fact, NOT be considered a “gift” several weeks before Captain Cox claims to have become involved in the situation. There are many Active-duty Service members who have Service Dogs, including several serving at Camp LeJeune. If these Active-duty Service members have Service Dogs, then by Captain Cox’s logic, are they all in violation of “gift” rules and regulations???? When are their Service Dogs going to be taken away???? When are they going to be prosecuted for these violations???
And since when is there a situation within the Military where a Commander, or his Commander, etc., CANNOT get something done if they want it done??? Even the “gift” regulations can be waived if the appropriate level Commander wants them waived. It may take some work, but there is nothing that cannot be done within the Military if an appropriately motivated Commander wants it done. Getting an individual like HM2 Kloppenborg a Service Dog that may prevent him from hurting or killing someone sounds like a pretty good reason to remove obstacles – at least to me.
Failure to Comprehend 3: The “Definition of Prevent”
To date, the best known debate concerning the definition of a word is the infamous: “Well, I guess it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.” Now, the debate concerning a definition of a word can also be stated as: “Well, I guess it depends on what the definition of “prevent” is.” In my mind, the standard definition of “prevent” in fact, applies to this situation, as HM2 Kloppenborg still DOES NOT have his Service Dog, and it’s NOT because paws4vets is not ready to provide SALLY to HM2 Kloppenborg.
HM2 Kloppenborg is still trying to cross all of the “T”s and dot the “I”s. He has had personal leave denied, he has had convalescent leave denied, and he has had TAD orders denied. He has submitted request after request and justification after justification; he was even told, at one point that he was going to be discharged from the Navy within the next eight days so there was “no need to worry about it (the dog).” He has been told, on at least two occasions, that he would be allowed to travel to meet some potential Service Dogs, only to be denied those travel requests at the last minute.
I have talked with, answering an untold number of questions, numerous members of the Hospital staff including Doctors, Lead Petty Officers, Chiefs, Master Chiefs, Lieutenant Commanders, Commanders and Captains. Other members of the paws4vets staff have talked with Hospital staff including Doctors, Lead Petty Officers, Chiefs, Master Chiefs, Lieutenant Commanders, Commanders, and Captains, answering these same questions. Mr. Clay Rankin, AW2 Advocate, and an expert on Service Dogs within the military and the Veterans Administration, including their utilization and presence inside hospitals, has talked with Master Chiefs. All of these conversations were conducted trying to answer questions and concerns on the part of “the Hospital Command” as they related to HM2 Kloppenborg’s attempts to get his Service Dog. All of this activity took place between September and November 10th.
How long do you think it would be before HM2 Kloppenborg had SALLY permanently by his side if I were the Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Hospital, Camp LeJeune, a Navy O-6, and gave the following order to my subordinate staff; “I want HM2 Kloppenborg to have his Service Dog as fast as humanly possible. Get those paws4vets people here for a meeting. I want the fastest timeline they can deliver. I want each of you to part the Red Sea if you have to in order to eliminate any/all bureaucratic roadblocks. HM2 Kloppenborg has waited long enough – get the problem fixed.” How long do you think it would take?
I still maintain that the title to my first article is correct. When the situation changes and merits a new title - I will write and title the article proclaiming the event and I will be one of the happiest individuals around.
If I have written too much to this point, you may stop reading – I must set the record straight on one more point:
Captain Cox made the following statement in his letter: “I regret that you did not agree to meet with me this week to discuss this information in person.”
Captain Cox has seriously and blatantly distorted the facts.
I was telephonically contacted and had conversations with Mr. Raymond Applewhite, the Public Affairs Officers (PAO) for the U.S Naval Hospital, Camp LeJeune, during the period of December 17-18. During these conversations Mr. Applewhite related that Captain Cox had expressed a desire to meet with me to discuss his perspective on the article and HM2 Kloppenborg’s situation. I explained to Mr. Applewhite that I was headquartered in Round Hill, VA, and that a trip to Camp LeJeune within the next week (Christmas week) would be impossible. I related to Mr. Applewhite that myself and our paws4vets team were planning on being at Camp LeJeune during the week of January 11-14, and that we would welcome the opportunity to meet with Captain Cox during that time period. Mr. Applewhite subsequently relayed that Captain Cox was made aware of the geographical situation, our travel restrictions for the week of December 21-24, and he informed Mr. Applewhite that he would meet with us while we were at Camp LeJeune during the January time period. Of course Captain Cox did not offer to travel to Northern Virginia to meet with me, during Christmas week, either – did he?
Update: I am still awaiting confirmation that HM2 Kloppenborg will be allowed to travel, on TAD orders, to West Virginia to begin his “official” transfer training with SALLY during the week of February 1-4.
So the saga continues.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Captain Cox's Letter Responding to My 12/14/09 Post

Captain Cox's letter, dated 12/24/09, post-marked 12/30/09, was received on 1/6/10. To read the entire, original text of Captain Cox's response, click here.*

*It is this blog's policy not to publish the letters, comments, or other correspondence of parties outside of paws4vets. In lieu, a link is provided to view the third party's publication if/when the editor of The paws4vetsADVOCATE deems necessary.