Benni, the service dog with Milford roots, is now part of a happy family

Milford. Now with a family in New Jersey, the yellow lab who captured hearts in Pike County is now best buddies with Matthew Hughes-Grabstein.


Make text smaller Make text larger



Photos



  • Benni and Matthew




  • Matthew with him mom, Nancy, brother, Danny, and new best friend, Benni




  • Benni relaxing in his new home




  • The whole family at Easter




  • Matthew and Benni




  • Danny and Benni




  • Danny, Matthew, and Benni



"Over the years we have fallen to our knees in despair over the challenges of living with a child who lacked safety awareness. Death, going missing or being harmed was an everyday reality for Matthew. The stress of that takes a huge toll on a family. With a service dog in your life, you can take a few breaths and concentrate on living a bit easier. Life is still filled with challenges, but it improves beyond expectations once these amazing dogs enter your lives."
Nancy Hughes-Grabstein


By Frances Ruth Harris

Benni is now part of a happy family.

Courier readers will remember Benni as the personable yellow lab raised by Chrisanne Cubby of Milford to be a service dog for a child with autism.

The paper tracked Benni's progress as he made the rounds soon after his arrival in Milford as a puppy in early 2017. Cubby took him for meet-and-greets at Kids Play Today, GAIT Therapeutic Riding Center, Key Foods, Majestic Cinemas, Country Ark Farm, among many other busy places. He posed with kids and Santa for Christmas portraits to raise money for the food pantry, and toured the Delaware River with Kittatinny Canoes. All the while, he was learning how to get along with everyone he met, from little kids to distracted shoppers to curious goats.

After his graduation in April from the BluePath Service Dogs training program, Benni snagged the ideal placement— with the Hughes-Grabstein family of New Jersey. He's looking after their son Matthew, accompanying him everywhere he goes.

Matt's mother, Nancy Hughes-Grabstein, has caught us up on their progress:

"Benni has been a joy since we received him. Matthew, who is 17 years old now is enjoying working with Benni because of the independence he provides him. We feel so much safer when we’re out and about in the world again. Our younger son, Danny, who is 14 years old, is thrilled to have another dog after the loss of our first service dog, Sanders, one year ago at the young age of seven.

"The gift that an autism service dog provides to the child with autism is obvious from the beginning. Your child is immediately safer with a service dog leading the way.

While Matthew does not outwardly emotionally bond with Benni, he enjoys and knows 100 percent that Benni is his teammate. Matthew is nonverbal and does not express affection freely to family members or pets without prompting. We know him well enough to know that he appreciates Benni’s presence. When we are getting ready to go out, Matthew will go round up a Benni’s vest and leash because he knows that they are a team.

"Danny does not have special needs/autism and can tell us exactly how he feels about Benni coming into our lives. When Benni isn’t working with Matthew, Danny and Benni are inseparable. Benni provides Danny with stress and anxiety relief.

"Danny struggled with anxiety over his brother's safety and was diagnosed with mild PTSD when he was younger due to Matthew's multiple escapes and bouts of aggressive behavior due to frustration with communication. When our first service dog, Sanders, came into our home, there was an immediate improvement and stress reduction in Danny. Sanders and now Benny provide him with an indescribable love and comfort level that even we as his parents cannot provide to him. Their relationship is so special. This was an unexpected bonus. We had no idea the huge impact Benni would have on our other child. I call the siblings of children with autism the silent heros.

"We can’t express enough how much BluePath has helped our entire family heal and move forward. An autism diagnosis certainly teaches families what’s important in life. It also can bring a family to its knees with the many challenges that can occur with this diagnosis.

"Over the years we have fallen to our knees in despair over the challenges of living with a child who lacked safety awareness. Death, going missing or being harmed was an everyday reality for Matthew. The stress of that takes a huge toll on a family. With a service dog in your life, you can take a few breaths and concentrate on living a bit easier. Life is still filled with challenges, but it improves beyond expectations once these amazing dogs enter your lives.

"Thank you to BluePath, his raiser, Chrissanne Cubby, as well as the Nardone family, who were Benni's foster family while he trained with BluePath. We feel twice blessed to now call Benni our own.

"My husband, Marty, and I hope to take the family on a vacation again this summer as we skipped it last year since we felt it too dangerous to take Matt somewhere new without a service dog easing our path in uncharted territory.

"At Benni’s official BluePath graduation we were so touched to meet Chrisanne Cubby and learn all about Benni’s one year with her. She provided us with great tips and even showed us a few tricks we didn’t know he knew which we’ve been having him do for us since. Chrissane was so generous and gave us a beautiful binder filled with pictures, newspaper articles, and her journals of all Benni learned and did while with her. The puppy raisers are amazing individuals in our eyes. It is so selfless to give up these beautiful pups they have given their all to. We hope knowing that they are literally changing lives comforts them when they are missing them. Their gift to us is priceless. We promise to keep in touch with Chrisanne as we did with Sanders' puppy raisers. They are their first families and deserve that reverence from us for the gift they give us."

"Within hours of his arrival, Benni had won all our hearts. Now about two months in, it is confirmed that Matt and Benni are a great working team. We are once again venturing back out into the world without much thought. Matt loves holding onto Benni versus having us hold onto him. We saw a return of pride on his face as they walk together through our neighborhood or at the mall and when we attend church.

"If Matthew could speak, we are fairly certain he would say thank you for his increased independence. Autism can be a very rocky road, but with a lot of love, and a BluePath dog, I know we will be okay. Once again, I am filled with hope."









Make text smaller Make text larger

Comments

Pool Rules



MUST READ NEWS

Joseph C. Johnson of Port Jervis, N.Y., dies at age 68
Joseph C. Johnson of Port Jervis, N.Y., and formerly of E. Rutherford, N.J., died Thursday, July 18, 2019, at home. He was 68.
Son of the late Francis J. Johnson and the late...

Read more »
Image

Raymond E. Gosselin of Dingmans Ferry, Pa., dies at age 86
Raymond E. Gosselin died on Sunday, July 21, at his home in Dingmans Ferry, Pa. He was 86.
He was born March 12, 1933, in Connecticut, where the family was enjoying a...

Read more »

Property tax hikes point to the coming financial disaster in Pennsylvania schools
Property tax bills have arrived in homeowners' mailboxes, and for many, this year's sticker shock has gone up despite an increase in state funding for schools and despite local...
Read more »
Image

Cardinal Dolan: 'I pray that understanding, respect and love might grow in dealing with newcomers to our land'
Editor's note: The following is from the Archdiocese of New York:

Dear friends in the Lord:
I was pleased to celebrate Mass at the convent of Mother Saint Frances...

Read more »
Image

VIDEOS



Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Community Newspapers



MOST COMMENTED



Weather in Milford, PA