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 79 whole time I've been working with her. at was lights-out. at's not how it typically goes." "So what did you change today before you did the exercise?" Benson asks him. "Maybe warmed up with things she's comfortable with?" Dorsett says. "ere you go!" Benson says. "You've gained her respect. You've built your relationship. You showed her: We're working together as a team." It can feel like Benson is a bit of a dog whisperer. When a dog doesn't do what it's asked, Benson figures out why and works that into his solution. "David really understands canine behaviors and psychology," his brother-in-law Ziegenfuss says. But it's more than that. "He also has that inner- peace and calmness that dogs absolutely respond to." (Since bringing home his own service dog, Ziegenfuss has started Hero Labradors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which raises puppies to be used as service dogs.) Benson exudes calm intensity. He holds eye contact. He listens. He provides no glib answers. Yet he says he was a hyperactive kid determined to always do the opposite of what he was told. When a gym teacher told the class to stand with their heels together and toes pointed out, without a moment's hesitation Benson did the opposite and stood toes together and heels out. In every conversation, he mentions some idea he's studied — Jungian archetypes, microexpressions, the ManKind Project — or some book that has influenced him — Autobiography of a Yogi, Nonviolent Communication, e Highly Sensitive Person, Decades Behind Bars. Yet he says he rarely reads a whole book, and instead just browses the index, picking out the parts that interest him. When he gets into something, he wants to master it. "I'm going to go full speed," he says. His backyard testifies to his interests: there's a slack line for tightrope walking suspended between two trees. He points to the back part of the lot, which he used for a while when he was bouldering (a kind of rock climbing). When he took up yoga eight yeas ago, what really caught his attention was a pose in which the yogi becomes sort of a human coffee table, performing a plank with the entire body balanced on one hand. (He demonstrates the move during two different conversations; it doesn't feel like he's showing off.) He's ambitious about Dogs Helping Heroes. "My ultimate goal is to be the largest nonprofit service-dog training program in the Midwest," he says. How big would that be? "e ones in New York or Florida are placing about 20 dogs a month." ose organizations have full-time paid staff and training facilities. ey charge somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 for a service dog. Although Benson took a stipend from Dogs Helping Heroes last year when it cut deeply into his full-time duties at Duffy's, normally nobody is paid. And he won't be this year. e organization has no building, just a van. And it charges nothing when it gives a dog to a qualified veteran, first-responder or Gold Star family. Interviews, background checks and home inspections help determine who gets a dog. is year, Benson hopes to give away 20 dogs, but says it's more likely to be 16. Last year, Dogs Helping Heroes trained and gave away 10 dogs; in 2016, it was four dogs; in 2015, two; in 2014, one. Wells, who lives in the St. Matthews house with pink hyacinth bushes, returned from Vietnam in November 1968 after a year on the Da Nang Air Base as a Navy corpsman (like an Army medic) to a Marine division. irty-five years later, he was diagnosed with PTSD. Wells has bright-blue, wide-open eyes, a mustache and a thatch of wiry gray hair. "I don't really remember leaving Vietnam," he says. "ey had a party ready for me here at the house" — he lives in the house where he grew up — "and I didn't even show up. I don't know why." He has reread the letters he wrote to his father while he was overseas. "I went out into this minefield to get a soldier that had his leg blown off," one letter said. "I don't remember any of it. It's that PTSD. It kind of kicks everything in the ass. You don't realize how much it affects you until 20, 40 years later," he says. He didn't understand why he didn't trust people, why he was hypervigilant, why he spent parties in the corner of the room watching everyone else. "I just put up a wall." About 8 percent of Americans will have PTSD at some point in their life, according to the National Center for PTSD. e number of diagnoses among members of the military is much higher. In one study of 60,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 13.5 percent tested positive for PTSD, although other studies found rates as high as 30 percent in Iraq and Afghanistan vets. e National Center reports that some 15 percent of Vietnam veterans have PTSD now and 30 percent of Vietnam veterans experience it at some time in their life. Dr. Courtney McEuin works with veterans with PTSD at the VA Hospital in Louisville. She says PTSD is characterized by four kinds of symptoms: intrusive thoughts such as the occurrence of unwanted memories of trauma; avoidance of places that might trigger thoughts and feelings of trauma; negative thoughts and mood, such as persistent negative beliefs about oneself, others or the world; and hyperarousal, which can include irritability, reckless One letter Wells wrote said, "I went out into this minefield to get a soldier that had his leg blown off." "I don't remember any of it," Wells says. "It's that PTSD."

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