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vDENNISON continued from page 21 in his wellness,” said Dennison. “They truly are best friends. Johnnie is a great companion for Benjamin in addition to being a service dog. (Benji) is a very social boy who unfortunately misses school frequently due to his medical conditions. (Johnnie) provides him with affection and reassurance.” That need for the other’s presence is equally as strong for Johnnie. The family has witnessed how difficult it is for Johnnie when Benji has been hospitalized and the two aren’t able to be together. “We have witnessed Johnnie experience periods of what appears to be depression when Benjamin has been hospitalized for lengthy periods of time,” said Dennison. When Johnnie and Benji are reunited, their bond is evident. “Johnnie has a hard time being a service dog when she visits Benji in the hospital because she gets so excited to visit him,” said Dennison. “Luckily, the children’s hospital that we use is happy to accommodate her and she is able to visit frequently. I believe that Johnnie is his (Benji’s) favorite visitor. As Benji has grown older, some of his medical needs have become easier to manage for both his parents and Johnnie. “Benji has transitioned to an insulin pump that is more advanced in its ability to detect and treat blood sugar variations,” said Dennison. “This means less work for us as parents, less work for Johnnie, and more time for Benji and Johnnie to just be buddies.” After seven years together, Johnnie, Benji and the rest of the Dennison family are like a well-oiled machine. While Johnnie always has the option of undergoing additional training, Dennison said they don’t feel it’s necessary. In fact, Dennison added, Johnnie’s training as an alert dog is so well honed that she has used her abilities to try to help others. That became evident at a doctor’s appointment for Benji. “I was horrified once at a clinic appointment several years ago when she would not leave a doctor alone,” Dennison recalled. “This was very unlike her. She was not only pawing at him but also jumped on his lap. Her behavior got progressively worse before the doctor confided that he is diabetic and had skipped lunch. I ended up sending her (Johnnie) out of the room with Benji’s nurse while the doctor excused himself for a few minutes. Now that Johnnie is nine years old, Dennison is looking ahead to the reality that Johnnie will not always be by Benji’s side as his diabetes alert dog. “We’ve started to look into options for a service dog for when Johnnie ‘retires,’” said Dennison. “She’s showing some minimal signs of aging at this point, so it’s not something we are actively pursuing yet.” Benji, Isaac, and Will Dennison Since the Dennison’s brought Johnnie home, the service dog industry has greatly expanded. With that expansion comes the risk of having a service dog that may not be as well trained as Johnnie. Dennison and her husband are looking into their options, including organizations in Minnesota and Utah. They are also considering an option even closer to home. “My husband and I have considered training Benji’s next service dog ourselves as we have learned so much from Johnnie’s trainers and also from Johnnie,” said Dennison. Dennison feels hopeful for Benji’s immediate future and for the years ahead. “His diabetes is currently managed well with a closed loop insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring,” said Dennison. “As he has gotten older, technology has caught up to his complex needs and we’re hopeful that his future will include an artificial pancreas.” Dennison also believes that Johnnie’s impact on Benji’s life will stay with him well into adulthood. “I can see Benji choosing to continue to have a service dog as an adult in order to live independently,” said Dennison. “As parents, we want him to be able to go to college, date and pursue his interests just like we want for any of our children. He’s an intelligent young man who has a lot to offer to the world, and I believe that as an adult, having a service dog will reduce barriers for him.” vBy Amy Nelson Yankton Slumberland Is Proud To Introduce The New Line Of... With thousands of possible combinations, Canadel offers you style that is tasteful, refined and personal. Canadel furniture brings richness and harmony to your life by merging design and functionality, so that you can furnish your home beautifully. Make your space as unique as you are and enjoy great moments in your décor! See the East Side and Gourmet Collections now at Yankton Slumberland! 2401 Broadway, Yankton • 605-665-3719 • slumberland.com Monday-Friday 10am-8pm, Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday Noon-6pm 22vHERVOICEvJANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018

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