Thursday, February 11, 2010

NeBrAsKa StAtE LeGiSlAtUrE, My SpEeCh!

I was honored to be asked by Nebraska State Senator Kate Sullivan to speak on behalf of her proposed bill. 

Luka and I would be honored if you took the time to learn about this, we would be ecstatic if you chose to lend your support by sharing this with others across the nation- not just Nebraska..  as this ruling will effect all who travel through out state. 

Please also drop these Senators an email, a note or give them a call!  Your support is the best way we can make this happen! 

Please also contact other Nebraska Senators!  As their support and influence will be crucial in the future!

Click here to see the proposed adjustments to the bill.
For those of you who have and know about Service Dogs, there is also a proposed amendment to this adjustment regarding the signage and attire on the dog to make it more in line with federal law.  (an oversight that already has plans for a correction, so don't go all wonky on that subject, but please share your thoughts about being in line with federal laws so the amendment will have support)  In other words, there is a plan in place to have no requirements for labels or gear..  As each of us who use a Service Dog and each Dog is different. 

Contact these Committee Members NOW!!  to insure this bill makes it out of Committee and on to the Floor with their complete support!

To make this easier, I have listed the committee members names and information below! 

Sen. Tim Gay, Chairperson
District 14
Room #1402
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2730

Sen. Kathy Campbell
District 25
Room #1019
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2731

Sen. Mike Gloor
District 35
Room #1523
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2617

Sen. Gwen Howard
District 09
Room #1124
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2723

Sen. Dave Pankonin
District 02
Room #2004
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2613

Sen. Arnie Stuthman (was not able to be present when we spoke)
District 22
Room #1101
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2715

Sen. Norman Wallman
District 30
Room #1406
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2620


District 41
Room #1019
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2631

My Spoken Piece:

Thank you Senator’s for the time to share my thoughts, and most importantly Senator Sullivan for introducing the proposed adjustments to the law.

My name is Tonja, and this is my Service Dog Luka. He was gifted to me unexpectedly, and has become a very stabilizing factor in my life.

For over 20 years I have lived within the boundaries of the disabling unspoken mental trauma of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I had learned to manage my life avoiding things that would set my attacks off.

In 2004, the car I was driving was involved in an accident. At that instant my physical limitations changed forever.

It is hard for people to comprehend that I have a need for a Service Dog or for a handicapped parking spot. I am not the picture of a person most people visualize when they imagine someone with a disability.

I get poor balance, getting up and down is a problem, I have trouble negotiating stairs, occasionally I feel like my legs want to drop out from beneath me, I get very severe migraines and I am easily exhausted as well as many other things. I live most of my life in bed, or in therapy and before having Luka the only times I could leave the house would be when my husband Jason could take me out.

My Service Dog Luka helps me:

Get up from the floor

Gives me stability on the stairs

Tells me when I need to take my migraine medication

Braces me when I pick something up off of the floor or get something from a low shelf

He carries my groceries in his pack when we walk home from the store

Helps me up and down curbs

He pulls me along and steadies me while walking

He helps me up out of short chairs

While I have never been a shy person I was a very private person. I now write a blog, my blog is . I share my blog with people who want to understand what has happened to me as well as why I utilize a Service Dog.

I no longer enjoy shopping. It has nothing to do with my disabilities; it has everything to do with how I am treated. I don’t mind polite questions; I don’t even mind doing public education.

For me having a Service Dog is the only way I am able to safely go out on my own, while at the same time, he is a huge inconvenience. It is to some degree like living your life with a six year old at your side.

I am constantly bombarded by people, some well meaning, others not so much.

“Oh, don’t touch him,

Maim, please watch your baby don’t let him climb on my service dog...

Yes, lady, your daughter is correct; he is a service dog you are not supposed to pet him he is working,

Hey… don’t feed my dog!!

For me the worst part of having a disability is when you are confronted by ignorant and mean people. At a store in Omaha I had an encounter I will never forget, this was one of my first times out since the accident without my husband and I was so excited.

A lady working at the store came up interrupted my shopping and told me Luka and I had to leave, she rudely insisted that we leave the store, and shared that if I left him outside I would be welcome to shop again in the store, I told her he was a service dog, he is protected under the American’s with Disabilities Act. She didn’t even bother to look at his vest. She then started to well, well, and was still very rude. Finally she said we could stay and shop. But the damage to me was done.

I had heard of others with Service Dogs having problems, I felt so helpless and alone when it happened to me.

Every time I walk in to a new store, or even one that I frequent, I am filled with fear. I hate going places now! I now carry the law with me in my purse.

I stopped to eat at a favorite restaurant. I came in to the restaurant, and was completely ignored, they noticed I had a dog, but wouldn’t look at me wouldn’t talk to me wouldn’t acknowledge my presence.

While I was volunteering one afternoon, a couple with a little dog, kept walking by Luka and I, their dog was barking viciously at Luka.. The couple thought it was funny. They and their dog had tormented us the year before as well. People are just so thoughtless.

On the other hand many places have been just great. It still doesn’t stop the anxiety. I would like to be able to call the local police department for support, if I felt we were being threatened. I know I can file a complaint with the ADA, but that does nothing for our immediate needs and well being.

While I do not utilize Luka for my PTSD, the next Service Dog that I get will have that training as well. My panic attacks have become more apparent again with the situations I have encountered while I am out and about with Luka. What I once had under a good degree of control, is now controlling many aspects of my life again.

Basic independence is something that most people take for granted. People utilizing Service Dogs in order to lead a more productive and independent life should not be able to be taken advantage of, treated rudely, or dismissed.

As a member of the Nebraska community, I work hard to be as productive and independent as possible. I did not create the hand I was dealt, but I am doing the best I can to live the most productive life possible. I appreciate the proposal to make Nebraska safer, easier to negotiate and less of a burden for myself and others like me.

I had three to five minutes to speak... I took the entire five minutes... My first draft was about three times as long.. Yes, I know I am windy!  Ha!  One thing I can do for sure is come up with lots to say.

I enjoyed speaking, and sharing my perspective, it did wear me out for sure, and thankfully I had removed all of the names of the Senators on the Agriculture Committee...  (that is the group that my friend had told me I'd be speaking to.., of course it would have been funny)..   I was looking forward to speaking to that group of senators, as I am familiar with one of them, he happens to be my classmate and friends father.. =)! 

Those of you who know me can figure that one out, contact him as well to garner his support.

Well, I had wanted to get this posted last night after I spoke, but when I got home I was just able to get Luka fed, and get into bed.  My body hurt all over.  I couldn't think so much to get this all done properly.. 

I'd like to add more, but I've got therapy now, so I can't! 

LB858 Change provisions relating to service animals and mobility-impaired or otherwise disabled persons

Please take time and don't forget about this issue!  I am not the only one who is having horrible problems!  Others spoke yesterday as well to the issues they face and the horrible ignorant and rude people who think they have the right to abuse us because we are different or they are having a bad day. 

Every day we wake up it is a bad day, I like to make the most of my bad days and be as happy as possible!  Please help me do this with more grace and dignity!

By the way Luka did a great job and was a wonderful example for all to see!  What a good boy!

Pink Doberman

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