Saturday, August 31, 2013

a public service announcement

As you know from earlier posts here I have a keen interest in service dogs. In particular I support organizations that pair service dogs with veterans struggling with PTSD. I follow several of these organizations on facebook, and in the process I have received something of an education about the lives and challenges of people whose service dogs help these warriors cope and heal.

Today I am sharing a situation that occurs far too frequently in the hopes that others might learn about, and even advocate for, people with hidden disabilities who rely on animals for assistance. A post this morning on facebook told the story of a service dog trainer boarding a plane with a service dog who was denied entry to the plane with the dog. The Americans with Disabilities Act covers this eventuality. In spite of having been in contact with the airline earlier about this particular flight, an employee took it upon himself to challenge and harass the trainer (himself a disabled person) in front of other crew members and passengers. For an individual with PTSD, this is the kind of stressful situation that aggravates the vulnerabilities of the person living with the disorder and magnifies its impact. After a great deal of wrangling and some phone calls the trainer and dog were allowed to board the plane. 

The poster of this story on facebook asked that the post be shared, to use it as an illustration of how not to treat people with service dogs--an object lesson of sorts. Unfortunately, too many comments on the post seized the opportunity to condemn the employee as well as the airline, leaping to all manner of conclusions. I am opting to share the story this way, without judgment, as way to affirm the law and inform people within my "sphere" as a way to get the word out.  (The photo included here is not of the man and dog involved in the situation I am sharing--it is of another soldier and his service dog, trained through K9s for Warriors. )

I rarely see service dogs in public (probably because I don't get out much!), but should a situation like the one described above ever arise I would feel more than comfortable stepping in to advocate for the rights of those being denied.  I leave it to you how you might be part of shaping good outcomes for all persons with disabilities who deserve our support. Consider this my personal plea to be part of the solution. And thank you.

If you're interested in reading what the law itself says, you can read relevant portions below from the Department of Justice's web site:

Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. For example, in a hospital it would be inappropriate to exclude a service animal from areas such as patient rooms, clinics, cafeterias, or examination rooms. However, it may be appropriate to exclude a service animal from operating rooms or burn units where the animal’s presence may compromise a sterile environment.

Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.
  • When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.
  • Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.
  • A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.
  • Establishments that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.
  • People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be isolated from other patrons, treated less favorably than other patrons, or charged fees that are not charged to other patrons without animals. In addition, if a business requires a deposit or fee to be paid by patrons with pets, it must waive the charge for service animals.
  • If a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may also be charged for damage caused by himself or his service animal.
  • Staff are not required to provide care or food for a service animal.

Friday, August 30, 2013

firday five: first times

At RevGals MaryBeth is thinking about "firsts." With so many folks starting school, college, seminary, etc. I've been thinking of a lot of other firsts in my life.  Share with us, if you will:

1) Your first "place" - whether it was an apartment, dorm room, or home with a new spouse, the first place where you really felt like a grown-up.
Wow. This has opened a floodgate of memories! My first place is the house I rented after college. It was a cute little bungalow that I shared with two friends from college the first year. The landlord let me paint the bedrooms and bathrooms, and I wallpapered the kitchen. I planted flowers, had friends over for dinner, and as I look through some pictures I had a ton of fabulous posters decorating the walls (clearly, I had not left behind some of my college ways).

2) Your first time away from home. Construe this any way you want. College? Girl Scout Camp? Study Abroad?
My brothers and I each had visits on our own with our grandparents in New York from as early as I can remember (and photographs document those occasions from before I can remember!). This meant that being away from home was not an occasion of trauma, but just part of our lives. I suppose that's why no "first time away from home" stands out for me. BUT! I do have a fun story for what probably was the first time, when I was just a wee lass of two... A year before, my parents, older brother and I drove from Connecticut to San Diego where my father was doing a one-year internship. Apparently I didn't travel well. Mom had strategically packed toys in two boxes--one for morning distraction and another for the afternoon. By 9 AM I had gone through both boxes, and was in search of entertainment for the rest of each day. I was a cranky kid, having come home from the hospital at birth with a staph infection that was still being treated, so I can just imagine my family's frustration. By the time we reached San Diego my mother declared that she would spend the rest of her life in California before she drove back across the country with me. When the internship year ended, Providence provided a family friend who was flying to New York and he agreed to take me with him. My grandparents were at the other end to take me off his hands. Ta Dah! Crisis averted! 

3) Your first job in your field of endeavor (so, not babysitting, unless you are A Professional Babysitter today):

There was some drama around passing my ordination exams. That translated as postponement not only of being ordained, but of being eligible for jobs after seminary. It was the year from hell in so many ways, but two people who believed in me made a huge difference in how things played out. One of those people was the dean of our diocesan cathedral. I had known him for several years, and one day while having lunch with him to do some networking he essentially offered me a job. He told me that he had every confidence that I would pass my exams and be ordained, but the job didn't depend on that. It was a part time position as pastoral assistant. The cathedral was a place of great significance in my spiritual and ordination journey, so this offer was better than manna from heaven. I took the job. The picture here is the day after my ordination as deacon (during Advent). The dean is on the left, and the other priest on staff is on the right.

4) Your first time hosting. Again, construed broadly, this could be a dinner for the in-laws, your first time to have guests for a holiday meal, etc.
I used to entertain a lot. I love to mark occasions, big and small, and hospitality has been a big piece of my self-understanding for a long time. I don't recall my first time hosting, but I do remember what I consider to have been a wildly successful party at my first home (see above!). It was Twelfth Night party (to mark the end of the season of Christmas, not the play), and guests were mostly friends from college since I was still in my college town. I remember making calzones for the occasion, and setting up a card table with a jigsaw puzzle on it where people could mingle over the puzzle (we did this at our son's rehearsal dinner a few years ago, and it was huge hit! It's a great way to put introverts at ease and people get acquainted without the usual agony of small talk). I don't remember much else, but I remember a house full of people, lots of chatter, and going to bed happy. I have wanted to host an annual Twelfth Night event throughout adulthood, and although there have been a few here and there, various circumstances have kept that from happening. Maybe again, eventually.

5) Your first love.That can be a person or something else!!
Dogs. And Scotland. Two different kinds of love, but both of them run deep in my soul. Dogs were first. Growing up we spent a lot of time with another family, and consequently enjoyed spending time at their cousins' farm in western Massachusetts. I honestly don't remember what they farmed, but in addition to a barn with horses and some other critters, they had a kennel from which they bred Shelties. When it came time for me to get my own dog, a pup from The Farm became mine. I was 11, and I named her Bonnie. Two years later we bred Bonnie, who had a litter of four pups. We lost one at five weeks, suffering from a congenital hole in her heart. It is the first time in my life I remember praying, sobbing while huddled on the sofa in the rec room. And then a few weeks before Christmas Bonnie was hit by a car and killed. We kept one of the pups, named Tammy after a friend who called while Bonnie was in labor to predict a fourth young'un. I've had dogs ever since. Their names have gotten more interesting: Avalon, Rory, Brenna, Dooley, Juliet, Rigel and McKinlee. The last three currently share our home. It is my love of and for dogs that have led me down a new path in life to animal massage.
 Bonnie on vacation at Cape Cod

Friday, August 23, 2013

friday five: packer or pack rat?

Ah, it's a Friday Five after my heart, or should I say my packing gene. 

1. Are you a sorter or a pack rat? What I mean by that is, do you select what you are taking with you (on a trip, a new assignment, a vacation), or do you pack with abandon (overweight suitcases be damned!)
I would be a sorter.
2. Who first helped you learn how to pack? Or did you just come into it by osmosis or natural gifting  (and need)?
I come by my packing expertise naturally, through both sides of my family! My maternal grandmother was the queen of packing, such that my grandfather dubbed her The She Master (in the most affectionate way, of course). My father was an ace packer, and my mother quite well, too. At home I'm known at the Space Queen, and not because of anything lacking in my head.
3. What's your favorite kind of suitcase? Duffle? Soft-side? Wheels? (I am personally a fan of my "expanding zipper" wheelie suitcases. Saved my bacon on many a return trip home!)
I like different bags for different occasions. For airport travel, wheels are a must. If I'm traveling by car, a suitcase works for clothing, but everything else goes into a tote of one description or another (I'm also the Tote Queen--it's all about containment). Totes are very forgiving when you need to arrange odd sizes together for optimal fit. Anything with a shoulder strap is a plus when you want to carry as much as possible at one time.
4. Do you have that "packing gene" -- or do you pack and cram what you need into every available space?
As noted above, I do have the packing gene.  This is a disadvantage after a trip to the grocery store: my husband always defers to me to put things away because I can find space for things that he somehow misses (or so he says). I also repack the dishwasher after he's made an attempt (not that I want to discourage him!). Who, me? Compulsive about wasting space?
5. What's one thing you've learned in traveling, packing or storing your belongings that you think everyone should know?
Pack the big stuff first, medium sized next, and small items last.  As seen above: pack the "hard" containers on the bottom, soft stuff on top. And if you're traveling with a kilt, roll it and "slide" it into pantyhose.

Friday, August 09, 2013

friday five: keeping calm

At RevGals this morning Karla invites us to shake our calm thing (sort of, I just liked the sound of that phrase). So here we go!

1.  First, how are you doing? What's going on with you?
I'm great! Lots of things happening in my world right now, including transitioning to a new expression of ministry, getting ready to welcome a new grandson in less than two months, enjoying a cooler-than-usual summer, and completing some unfinished projects.
2.  Is there anything you need to Keep Calm and Cowgirl Up for (Cowgirl Up was Karla's Keep Calm poster)?
In the process of shifting vocational gears obstacles come up. Ya think? Periodically I want to yield to tears as a result, and on such occasions it would feel really great to be galloping along with the wind in my hair. I do so internally.
3.  If you were going to make a "Keep Calm and __________" logo for a t-shirt, what would it be?
I made the Keep Calm poster here via the web site that allows one to do so. Since I needed an idea in a hurry and I hadn't even gotten half way through my first cup of coffee, I latched onto the first thing that came to mind, the phrase with which Ellen DeGeneres closes her show each day, "Be kind to everyone." Or words to that effect (I don't watch Ellen that much, so...) Thanks, Ellen! I would, however, replace the crown with a hand holding a daisy.
4.  What are you looking forward to in the next week or so?
Shortly after I finish this post I'll be getting on the road to head to Augusta, GA for a baby shower for our daughter-in-law. It's their first, a son, and we're all excited! Next week I've also got an appointment with a new doctor, and I'll be putting finishing touches on and preparing for a retreat I'm leading for our local priory of the Knights Templar next weekend. Somewhere in there I'll need to finish (or try to) an icon I'm writing so that it can be blessed the following week at a gathering with other icon-writers that were part of a mini workshop this summer. Oh, and then there's stuff to do related to my new career (animal massage)! A typical, slow week.
5.  Use the following words in a sentence:     cape, river, dancing, paws, glory
I stood on the banks of the river and smiled at the impression of paws in the soft mud, a wash of glory over my head as the colors of the sunset rippled the clouds like a hero's cape in the wind: my heart was dancing.


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