Louisville Magazine

AUG 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 8.18 73 Dogs Helping Heroes founder David Benson. Right: Trayceton Harmon and Tommy. Tommy, a young German shepherd, stares at the closed bedroom door, ears up like two exclamation points. From the living room of the compact home in Tompkinsville, Kentucky, just north of the Tennessee border, Wendy Dickens asks, "Is he over by that door?" She gets up from the black leather couch and sees Tommy at the end of the hall. "You want Trayce?" Dickens asks the dog. She opens the door, and Tommy jets into the darkened bedroom. "Sometimes Tommy has to get in there just to look at him," Dickens says. e dog will come out later and play with Trayce's brother and sister for a while, then it's back to spend time with 14-year-old Trayceton Harmon, who has been too sick to get out of bed for most of the miserably hot summer. For much of that time, Tommy has kept him company. In Corydon, Indiana, Hoss growls quietly as he sits beside Darren Bennett on the couch, his head on the big man's chest. e dog's golden eyes watch everything. When Bennett stands, the dog stands. When Bennett walks into the kitchen to retrieve some paperwork, Hoss is so close that Bennett could reach down and touch his head at any time. When Bennett returns to the couch, Hoss sits on the floor and stares at him, waiting for permission to jump on the couch, to maintain full-body contact. ey go everywhere together, which is saying something. Before Hoss joined his family, Bennett went nowhere at all. In a yellow house in St. Matthews with pink hyacinth bushes along the sidewalk, a big black Labrador named Johnny Cash lies on the floor of a wood- paneled back room, chewing noisily on his toy. At a nearby table, John Wells rolls out story after story about his dog's gentle exploits. "I went up to the VA hospital to visit this one guy. I walked into his room, and his daughter was in there. She's 15, 16 years old, rubbing on her father's hands, weeping." Without a word from Wells, the dog walked to the girl and put his big square head under her arm, snuggling as close to her as he could. "e nurse starts crying. ere weren't too many people who weren't crying," Wells says. Twenty-four men clad in khaki sit along the walls of a big room in the Kentucky State Reformatory near La Grange. At the feet of each man, a dog waits quietly. ere's caramel-colored Tank, a moose of a dog with a puppy's face, his handler one of two men in the room to top seven feet. ere's a shy little beagle peeking out between her handler's legs. ere's Reese, a German shepherd with black-tipped fur. He's so alert, he seems to be plotting something. en there's black-and-white Sarah, who, her handler proudly asserts, doesn't have a thing left to learn. And then he demonstrates, walking her off- leash around the room, asking her to stay in the middle of a clot of men and dogs, and then calling her from across the room. It's a perfect performance. Nothing distracts her. And then there's Tommy, who in a few weeks will be introduced to Trayceton Harmon. Finally, there's David Benson. On a hot July morning, his own dogs — Boss, Wren and Pete — are out back while he sits on the shady front porch. His Jeffersonville, Indiana, home is on a green and leafy lot tucked behind an almost treeless subdivision. Benson is 39, just a shade under six feet tall and neatly built. His bald cranium seems domed to accommodate a little extra brain; he keeps his remaining hair trimmed to a fuzz. A few years ago, a call from his sister led him somewhere he hadn't planned on going, which in turn led him to Trayce Harmon and his mom, Photo by Mickie Winters

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