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It was yet another case of someone not understanding what a service dog looks like. This time it happened to Eric Calley, a former Marine who served in Iraq, when he was traveling with his service dog, Sun, a Doberman Pincher. The pair were on a U.S. Airways flight from Florida to Detroit.
According to the Lansing State Journal, one of the flight attendants yelled at Calley because Sun had put her front paws on an empty seat next to him during some turbulence. Calley suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Witnesses on the flight noted that the attendant was so rude to Calley that a number of other passengers came to his defense.
Calley, who served two tours of duty in Iraq and now spends his time working as an advocate for veterans with PTSD, has Sun by his side all of the time. She monitors his heart rate, his breathing, and the tension in his muscles. If Sun notices a change, she immediately nuzzles Calley with her nose to calm him. She also jumps in his lap to put warm pressure on his chest.
The problem with PTSD is that people who have it look totally normal. They don’t have a cane, which is associated with someone who is blind, or a wheelchair, which shows a definite disability. Add that to the fact that Sun is a Doberman, not a typical looking service dog.
It used to be that service dogs were either Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, or Labrador Retrievers. Today, a variety of breeds can work as service dogs. Many service dogs are rescues from animal shelters.
A few weeks after the flight, Calley received an apology in the form of a letter from U.S. Airways. The letter says, “It appears our airport personnel didn’t handle the situation with the quality customer care we expect.”
Calley called the apology “insufficient” because he was mistreated by other airline personnel. He is speaking out about this to raise awareness on behalf of veterans and those with service animals. He tells Louise Knott Ahern at the Lansing State Journal, “We are going to continue to have this huge influx of new veterans coming back. And it can take a veteran four to five years after getting out to even attempt to get help. The thing I want U.S. Airways to understand is that this is going to be a growing problem.”
Calley is promoting Liberty’s Legacy — a program helping veterans from Michigan to get service dogs. His goal for the New Year is to bring “as many dogs as possible” to Michigan veterans.