Army Veteran, Local Elementary Teach Kids About Service Dogs

A military veteran who uses a service dog to deal with his post traumatic stress disorder said he felt like he was discriminated against recently, when he went to have lunch with his sons at a local elementary school.

Army veteran Nick Haffter Von Heide said the school principal tried to get him and his dog, Ozzy, to leave the cafeteria, fearing the dog was becoming a distraction to other students; but now, that school and its principal have had a change of heart.

Haffter Von Heide was a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since his return home, he has been dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, otherwise known as PTSD. Last September, he was given the opportunity to get a service dog from K-9 for Warriors.

"Ozzy has been one of the best gifts that I could ever have received," Haffter Von Heide said.
Ozzy has helped Nick get back into public settings. On Monday, Nick went to have lunch with his two sons at Mireles Elementary for the first time. While at lunch, the school principal approached Nick and told him that there were other areas where he could eat with his kids and Ozzy. That made Nick feel bad, and it triggered his PTSD.

"It translated to me having a fight-or-flight reaction," Haffter Von Heide said. "I got very nervous, and Ozzy went into protection mode, where he cuddled around my feet and blocked me from principal."
Nick felt like he was being treated differently from other parents at the school.

"If she would have informed the other parents as well, I wouldn't have that much of a problem, instead of feeling like I was discriminated against," Haffter Von Heide said.

The principal said that it was not the case. She had just offered him different options as to where Nick and Ozzy could eat lunch.

"There was no intent to harm or insult," Principal Angie Ramirez said. "It was just that Ozzy was new to the campus and students were excited about a dog in the cafeteria. Just wanted to make sure he had those options to him."

On Tuesday morning, Ramirez apologized to Nick for any misunderstanding. They both agreed it was a miscommunication, and now they are working together on a program to teach the kids and faculty about service dogs, and how they are beneficial.

"It will help clarify how to respond when a service dog is on campus," Ramirez said.

Nick now hopes that, in the future, they can take this program to other campuses around the district.


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