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It’s A ‘First In The Nation For The U.S. Postal Service & It Happened Right Here In Western New York’ - NALC Branch 3 Letter Carrier & Military Vet Secures OK From the USPS For An Emotional Support Dog On His Daily Delivery Route

Union ‘Plays Key Role In Making It All Happen,’ Now Fielding Calls & Inquires From Across The U.S. & From Other NALC Branches & Unions ‘Wanting To Know How It Was Done So They Can Assist Their Military Vet Members Who Need Similar Help’

Published Monday, July 11, 2022
by WNYLaborToday.com Editor-Publisher Tom Campbell
It’s A ‘First In The Nation For The U.S. Postal Service & It Happened Right Here In Western New York’ - NALC Branch 3 Letter Carrier & Military Vet Secures OK From the USPS For An Emotional Support Dog On His Daily Delivery Route

WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: Pictured above, National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 3 Member Dwayne Jensen and his emotional support dog, Beau, deliver mail on one of his routes in the Cattaraugus County City of Olean.  With the help of his Union, Jensen - a U.S. Army Gulf War Veteran who deals with PSTD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), asked the United States Postal Service (USPS) for the okay to employ the assistance of an emotional support dog while on the job - a request that was eventually given and in the process created a first of its kind in the Nation form of assistance for a USPS Letter Carrier.  (Photos Supplied to WNYLaborToday.com by Dwayne Jensen & NALC Branch 3 President David Grosskopf, Jr.)

 

(OLEAN, NEW YORK) – Dwayne Jensen is a 25-year Member of National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 3 here in Western New York who also served in the U.S. Army for five years - including his participation in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 to expel then President Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War in Iraq.

Diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) upon his return after service, Jensen   brought up the idea of a procuring a support dog with medical officials at the Veterans Administration (VA) where he was receiving treatment.  He was hopeful it would help him cope better during his daily mail delivery routes in the Cattaraugus County City of Olean.

“I saw a (media) report on a Home Depot Worker and the Worker had one and took him to work.  I’m a disabled Vet and (VA Medical Officials) thought it was a good idea,” Jensen told WNYLaborToday.com during a recent interview. “I ‘didn’t know what (the United States Postal Service) would say because it was so brand new.’  ‘And while it took a year to get approval (from the Postal Service), it became a first in the Nation for the Postal Service.’”

NALC Branch 3 President David Grosskopf, Jr. tells WNYLaborToday.com: “(Beau) keeps (Jensen) ‘on even keel because (living with PTSD) can be a roller coaster.’  Dwayne contacted us and Mike (Levering, NALC Branch 3’s Executive Vice President, who also served in the U.S. Army) and Jim (Isenhart, NALC Branch 3 Steward responsible for the Olean area who is a former U.S. Marine) got involved.  ‘It’s an incredible story - Vets helping Vets.’”

“This all ‘makes me so proud,’” Grosskopf continued.  “Buffalo ‘leads the way because this is the first service dog approved for a City Letter Carrier in the U.S.’  ‘It’s just incredible and makes me feel so good.’”

NALC Branch 3 Executive Vice President Levering said: “It was a ‘reasonable’ request and at first it looked like (the USPS) ‘wasn’t going to do it, but it’s all good.’  ‘I’d never heard of this and it is amazing to be the first to make it happen.’  Now, our phones ‘are blowing up from all over the country,’ asking: ‘How did you do it?’  We just utilized the system and ‘didn’t take no for an answer.’  All around, ‘it’s very cool’ - ‘a good story, and it’s good for the Postal Service.’  ‘We saw the need (because of the repercussions of combat) and thought it would be good’ for (Jensen).  ‘I’m proud of everyone - including Jim (Isenhart), who did a spectacular job’ (shepherding the process).  He’s a ‘go-to ‘guy (in Branch 3) ‘and he is an asset to our Branch.’  Our Union also ‘persisted and believed in the process.’  ‘We always thought we would get it done.’  ‘All we had to do was to keep that train moving.’  ‘In the end, I couldn’t believe it.’  I got ‘goosebumps.’”

NALC Branch 3 Steward Isenhart told WNYLaborToday.com: “(Jensen) was a fellow Gulf Vet ‘who needed’ support.  He asked (his Union) ‘if we thought the dog was a good idea - and we thought it was an exceptional idea.’  ‘It was worth pursuing, but took months.’  It was a ‘reasonable’ accommodation, ‘one with extra special care so he could perform his job.’  I’ve gotten so many calls from out-of-state, from Arizona, California, Colorado, Michigan and Oklahoma.  ‘It snowballed.’  We made up a packet (of information) to show them how we did it.  And the people in Olean ‘have really taken to them - they’re celebrities now’ (after some local media coverage).  ‘It’s right out of a Norman Rockwell painting, happening in a small town and everything.’”

Jensen, a Gowanda native, was able to procure Beau (pronounced Bow), a German Shepard mix, through the Pawsitive For Heroes Program, and with help from WNY Heroes, the Veterans Service Organization.

Beau stays by Jensen’s side while accompanying him on his more than nine-mile-long, weekday delivery routes where the NALC Letter Carrier delivers mail to some 500 homes in Olean.

“He ‘takes my mind off (stress levels).  ‘It’s totally different now because I’m not by myself or distracted’ (by what loud noises he might hear on his mail delivery route),” Jensen said.

“Beau wears a vest that notifies the public that he’s a service dog,” he explained.  “He’s allowed access to every building (on the mail route with no restrictions, which is provided under Federal Law, he says).  The dog ‘cannot be separated from its handler’ and (the general public) ‘is not allowed to touch or pet him.’  ‘When (Beau’s) vest goes on, it’s time for work.’  When his vest ‘is off (at home), he’s like any other dog.’  Sometimes an owner (of a service dog) ‘doesn’t bond, but we bonded pretty quickly.’  He’s my buddy and he’s always sitting with my fiancé (Kristen, when they’re back at home).  It’s like ‘night and day’ (now working with a service dog).  ‘This has gone beyond my expectations.’   ‘I wish I would have done this years ago.’”

Service dogs such as Beau have an array of sponsors, so when things are needed, like dog food (from Purina), they are made available to Jensen free of charge

In fact, Beau wears some unique sponsor badges on his vest, including one - surprisingly, from the Whiskey Company, Crown Royal.

Asked if he was a Crown Royal connoisseur, Jensen laughingly answered: “I can be.”

Meanwhile, Jensen is thankful to his Union and its Branch 3 Representatives, who stepped up to the plate and stayed with him every step of the way to bring him together with Beau.

“(NALC Branch 3, Levering and Isenhart) were my ‘voice.’  ‘It was hard for me to put myself out there, but they had my back (100%),’” he said.  “This has ‘now created an awareness and we’re educating the public too.’  ‘I really do hope that this inspires others (inside and outside NALC) so it opens the door for other Veterans’ (who need similar help).”   

  

Comments

Truly inspirational. It's how we should treat all our Veterans with respect for all their sacrifices. It's a great story and not surprising the charge was lead by Branch 3. These men are real leaders. Posted by Joe Quinlivan on July 11, 2022 at 6:22 pm

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