The Morning Press: Service animals, prayer breakfast, ghostly guides



Harry Kiick of Vancouver rides a C-Van bus with his service dog, Sasha, in 2009. Kiick and Sasha have been regular C-Tran riders for the past 11 years; Sasha wears a vest and badge identifying her as a service animal.

Jon Sheptock tells his story of overcoming obstacles brought about by being born with no arms and a short right leg. Sheptock was the keynote speaker at Friday's Clark County Mayors' and Civic Leaders' Prayer Breakfast.

Jason Covington, a volunteer with OneAmerica Vancouver, left, and family friend Loriann Whalen, right, comfort Natasha Derthick, center, as she gives an emotional presentation on immigration reform at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Vancouver. Derthick's sister, Karen Byrne, a native of Ireland who spent much of her childhood in Vancouver, is unable to live near her family in Clark County because of delays in the U.S. immigration system. At top, Byrne with her daughters Roisin Byrne, left, and Siobhan Byrne.

Patricia Lelevier, right, works with a medium to identify spirits in her house. One spirit was that of a teenaged boy that lingered in the bathroom area, the group said.

Photos by Steven Lane/The Columbian Isabella Christner, 14, volunteering with the Fort Vancouver LEO Club, rakes leaves at the Old City Cemetery as part of the Make a Difference Day event Saturday.

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This week’s top stories and news you may have missed:

C-Tran riders stretch definition of service animal

When a No. 71 C-Tran bus pulled up to a stop on Highway 99 this month, the driver encountered what might be called a creative interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to dispatch logs, a man attempted to board the bus with an iguana. On his head. He claimed the lizard was a service animal.

The driver asked the two questions he’s supposed to under federal law: Is that a service animal? (The man said yes.) And, what service does that animal provide? When the man wouldn’t provide an answer to the second question, he and his iguana weren’t allowed to board the bus, according to C-Tran.

C-Tran policy allows service animals on the bus, but the agency can’t ask for a permit or other documentation. That leaves drivers at the mercy of something of an honor system as more and more people test the limits of the law, officials and riders say.

“It’s difficult to know which ones are service animals and which ones aren’t,” said Walt Gordon, C-Tran’s passenger service manager. “If they choose not to be truthful, we have no recourse.”

Read the full story here.

Civic leaders honored at Prayer Breakfast

When it comes to overcoming adversities, Jon Sheptock offers a lifetime of examples.

Born with no arms and a right leg that ended up 6 inches shorter than his left, Sheptock told his story Friday morning at the 12th annual Clark County Mayors’ and Civic Leaders’ Prayer Breakfast.

A group of more than 700 attendees listened to Sheptock’s journey to God, which began when he was rejected by his birth parents in New Jersey. Shortly after, he was adopted into a family of 34 children, with Sheptock being one of the couple’s 27 adopted children.

Despite having grown up in the large and loving family, Sheptock endured years of bullying and depression, which led him to nearly end his life.

“I finally realized that all I had to do was ask my Creator and he would help me through,” he said. “Nobody has offered me the hope that Jesus Christ has offered me.”

Read the full story here.

Woman takes on red tape of U.S. immigration law

Confused, Karen Byrne rattled off her life story to a U.S. customs official as the two sat in an interview room at the Dublin airport.

It was 2006. Byrne, an Ireland native who spent most of her childhood in Vancouver, was 5 months pregnant, had a 2-year-old daughter and was working as a teacher. Her life was hectic, and she’d unknowingly let her U.S. re-entry visa expire more than a year earlier. Now she was being stopped for questioning during a trip to visit family in the United States.

“So, do you think you can have your cake and eat it too?” the officer asked Byrne. He said she needed to decide, right there on the spot, whether she wanted to live in Ireland or the United States, Byrne recalled. Byrne asked if she could consult her Irish husband, who was waiting outside the room. But the officer was stern: “Is your husband the one with the alien card?”

Tears falling now, she said she would live in Ireland, at least for the time being. The officer cut up her visa and made her sign a declaration, but he still allowed her to board a plane to the U.S. using her passport.

After Byrne’s visit with her family, she longed to live in the U.S. If she moved to Clark County, her daughters could get to know her sister, extended family and her mother, who was the girls’ only surviving grandparent. So in 2007, Byrne’s mother filed an I-130 form — a “Petition for Alien Relative” — to bring Byrne and her family to America.

Today, Byrne’s daughters are 7 and 9. Byrne still lives in Ireland, caught in the minutiae of the United State’s broken immigration system, she says

Byrne, who can still visit the United States as a tourist, flew to the Northwest last weekend to host an immigration reform roundtable Monday evening at Vancouver’s Brickhouse Bar & Grill, owned by her uncle. The roundtable will focus on reforms that would keep families together, change how noncitizens are treated by customs officials, and improve visa wait times.

Read the full story here.

Getting in spirit with ghostly guides

There were no crystal balls, flickering candles or hand-holding seance circles in Patricia Lelevier’s spacious and tastefully decorated living room.

When a team of paranormal investigators arrived at hear Hazel Dell home to hear the odd noises she’d captured on a voice recorder, nobody levitated, the walls didn’t crack and the lights didn’t explode.

That kind of stuff only happens in the movies, said Seth Michael, the team’s leader.

The reality of ghost hunting — at least in his experience — is far more subtle.

It’s about gathering recordings or other unexplained signals, using his sensitivity as a “medium” to feel the situation and interact with spirits and finally finding ways to help them move on, he said.

“It’s like paranormal counseling,” Michael said. “It’s a lot of free will and choice.”

Read the full story here.

Making a difference: Volunteers step up around the county

Some made a nice haul of cigarette butts. Some made gravestone inscriptions at the Old City Cemetery more readable. And some made local parks more welcoming.

They all made a difference.

More than 400 community members joined forces Saturday for the annual observance of Make a Difference Day. Billed as the nation’s biggest annual community service day, the fourth Saturday in October offered an opportunity to improve public places in Clark County.

The Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Department mobilized volunteers for several efforts, from a Main Street cleanup to environmental restoration projects.

About 420 people took part, said Hailey Heath, a Parks and Recreation Department volunteer coordinator. The biggest effort drew about 250 people for a Burnt Bridge Creek tree-planting project near Leverich Park.

Read the full story here.