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 77 — 18-year-old omas and 16-year-old Trevor — he loves them. "Bye, son. I love you. Be careful! Fill your truck up!" Real dad stuff. He has an arm thrown around his other charge — his service dog Hoss, 90 pounds of watchful canine. It's hard to see Bennett and Hoss together without thinking of the Philip Pullman novels in which every character goes through life with an animal that is the external expression of the inner- self. Because if Bennett is the big softy to anyone who meets him — he greets strangers with hugs and will unself- consciously tell you that Laura, his wife, is an angel sent to help him — inside, he's on high alert. He wakes up at night and, with Hoss, walks the property on which his mother's and his own house sit. He's making sure all is secure. When he attends classes at the University of Southern Indiana, where he's working toward a sociology degree, he and Hoss sit by the door so he'll be the first person to confront anything bad that might come into the room. Bennett re-enlisted in the Army in time for the surge in Iraq, even though he'd already served for 13 years, because he felt a debt to a buddy who had just been killed in Afghanistan. He also believed it was his duty to protect and serve the nation. Even in Iraq, he put himself in harm's way, volunteering to be a turret gunner, the soldier most exposed to enemy fire in a Humvee, his torso poking through the top of the vehicle. "I was the oldest out of all the people in my truck. e driver was 21. e truck commander was 23. I was 40 or 41, I don't remember. I felt that if something was to happen, it should happen to me, not the younger people," he says. is month will be one year since he and Hoss were paired. In the beginning, David Benson taught Bennett basic obedience commands: how to walk Hoss on-leash, how to make him heel, how to call him. Hoss had learned both basic obedience and service-dog commands from his handler in state prison. en it became Bennett's duty to work with Hoss and polish his performance. Anyone who receives a dog through Dogs Helping Heroes has 10 lessons with Benson and other qualified trainers in order to earn three certifications, including the National Service Animal Registry Public Access Test, which allows the animals to go anywhere and is re- evaluated every two years. Now, with Hoss at his side, Bennett can go out with his wife. He can go to the store. "I didn't realize this," Laura Bennett says, "but before Hoss, he never went into a Walmart by himself. ere are just things you assume. When he would say he went to the store, in reality he would wait for the kids to come home to go to the store. He would go with them, or he would send them in." It's different now, Bennett says. "Now, with Hoss, I walk right into Walmart. I know he will get me out of a situation if something happens." In a way, Hoss came just in time, because Bennett's symptoms were about to grow worse. In addition to anxiety, hypervigilance and other PTSD baggage, he started developing frightening neurological problems. He began having seizures and blackouts that include vivid flashbacks. In January, Laura noticed her husband stuttering on a word or two when he was anxious. Within two months, those occasional stammers became a constant stream. By July, Bennett's speech was wracked by stuttering that grew more pronounced when he's was nervous, which made him self-conscious on top of everything else. Even with all of this, Hoss has given Laura breathing room. When Bennett had a seizure one night after she had gone to bed, Hoss rushed into the bedroom and got her. "He's not even trained to do that," Bennett says. "He just knows." "It's been great," Laura says, "but it's an adjustment. For the wife side of it, when a service dog comes into the picture — and it's not negative — but you notice that he provides some of the things that you were doing. I didn't stop doing what I did, I just know there's extra help there. Hoss is by his side 24/7. I feel more at ease when I'm at work, knowing Hoss is with him here, that he's taken care of." Without Hoss, Bennett is sure his life would be very limited. "I would still be sitting in the house," Bennett says. "I'm Trayce's mom, Wendy Dickens, at home in Tompkinsville with son Trevor and Tommy.

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