About Eric’s Dog Hannah

As the 2007 National Pet Therapy Dog of the Year, after recovering from being hit by a truck, Hannah now helps patients in hospitals. There was little doubt in Lance Cpl. Eric Palmisano’s email to Hannah’s new owners, Steve and Jenny Beno, that Hannah would be willing to give back after recovering from injuries suffered when she was hit by a semi-truck.

Hannah’s Story

Hannah… A Fallen Marine’s Dog Touches Many Lives

By Hannah’s Current Owners Jennifer and Steve Beno
We became Hannah’s owners after rescuing her in September of 2005. My husband Steve was on a business trip in the Kingsford, MI area when he witnessed her get hit by a semi-truck. He stopped to assist while the trucker driver kept on going.
Hannah was in shock and not moving. Steve stayed with her in the road for about a half an hour before the Humane Society came to pick her up. Steve left his business card with them and said, “Please take her to the vet and if nobody claims her, I’ll take her.”
It was the next day before Steve heard any news about Hannah. She was brought to an animal hospital about noon.
Hannah had lived a happy life in a secure home for six years with her owner, Eric Palmisano. Eric joined the Marines and had to leave Hannah behind with his mother and step father, Bobbie and Herb Samme. Before Eric left for boot camp his parents told him that if they could find Hannah a good home, they would do this because they felt that they were gone too much to be able to give Hannah the attention she needed and deserved.
After placing an ad in the local newspaper and interviewing a young lady, Bobbie thought she had found a good home for Hannah.
Hannah started her new life with a family that had two young boys. They loved Hannah but after about 2 months, their landlord found out that they had the dog and told them he they could not keep her. This was the start of a downward spin for Hannah.
The family ended up giving Hannah to someone who they thought would make a good home for her.
This next owner, a single woman, took Hannah for a ride in the back of an open pick up truck. While the new owner was in a store, Hannah jumped out of truck and walked into the path of a semi-truck.
Thank goodness Steve happened to be passing through town at the time of the accident. He stopped and stayed with Hannah until the Humane Society came and picked her up.
She was at the Humane Society until about noon the next day before she was taken to see a vet.
The vet tracked down the last owner, who said that she no longer wanted the injured dog. An assistant at the vet’s office recognized Hannah and traced records back to Eric and his mother, Bobbie Samme.
They called Bobbie, who was very upset to hear about what had happened to her son’s dog. Bobbie wanted to go and get Hannah, but she had heard about the good samaritan, Steve Beno, who had sat in the road with Hannah until the Humane Society picked her up. She learned of his offer to take Hannah if no one claimed her.
Bobbie called Steve and the process began for the Benos to become Hannah’s new owners.
Hannah was in the animal hospital for 3 days, when Steve drove back to get her. Hannah was badly bruised, had an air pocket on her lung and her front right leg was paralyzed due to nerve damage from the accident..
We made her as comfortable as we could. She could only walk a few steps before she had to sit or lay down. She had no wind and cried every time she moved. It was heart breaking to watch, yet we knew we had to keep doing whatever we could to help her heal.
It seemed forever but within a month, an x-ray showed that the air pocket on her lung had disappeared. Hannah slowly started to use her injured leg. The crying and whimpering were less and we noticed a sparkle beginning to show in her beautiful brown eyes.
Steve took Hannah to hydro therapy to help her injured leg heal. Hydro therapy uses water jets to work against the animal as it swims, to build up muscles without high impact on their body. Hannah also received massage therapy sessions to help her circulation.
All of the special care paid off. Hannah was healing and every day she showed progress. She was using her injured leg and her strength and endurance were improving.
Eric’s parents were grateful to us for rescuing Hannah. They sent us a generous donaton to help us out with Hannah’s vet bills. Bobbie e-mailed us everything she knew about Hannah and sent us pictures of her when she was a puppy.
We have been exchanging e-mails almost weekly ever since we adopted Hannah. Bobbie would forward our e-mails to Eric during his deployment.
Eric sent us an e-mail after he found out what had happened to Hannah. He thanked us and told us all he could about Hannah. Eric said, “Although it may seem trival, you are doing your country a service by giving this Marine peace of mind that his “daughter” is well looked after, and enabling me to concentrate on this war. God bless you both, and Semper Fidelis.”
April 2, 2006 we received a call from Eric’s step- father, Herb Samme. He told us that Eric was missing in Iraq. The vehicle that Eric was in had been caught in a flash flood and had turned over. It was 9 long days before they found Eric’s body. It was very hard on his family, fiancé and friends.
Steve and I decided that if we could do something to help this family with this tragedy, we would. We brought Hannah to Eric’s funeral so that Eric’s friends and family would have a part of Eric to see and touch.
When we arrived at the funeral home, Bobbie and Herb both hugged and kissed “Hannah Banana” (their pet name for her). Hannah wagged her little tail and licked their faces. She was glad to see them.
Also there to greet Hannah were Eric’s grandparents and fiancé Claire. As Claire came into the room where Hannah was, I thought she was going to collapse when she saw Hannah. She was crying and she moved very slowly towards Hannah. She did not take her eyes off of Hannah. She stooped down to Hannah and wrapped her arms around her and cried. Hannah licked her face, trying hard to lick her tears away. Hannah definitely knew Claire.
It was totally silent as other people walked into the romm and saw Claire and Hannah together. It was an emotional sight. After a few minutes, Claire got up and hugged Steve and I. She then looked at us through tear filled eyes and said, “Thank you.”
Throughout the night, many family members and friends hugged and kissed Hannah, knowing how much she had meant to Eric. All night long, Hannah stood tall, politely letting people pet her, embrace her and cry on her. Hannah’s presence helped people greive.
The Patriot Riders, a group of motorcycle riders who block-out protesters at military funerals were at the funeral home the morning of the funereal service. It was a sight to see them all lined up with the American flags waving in the breeze. I bet there were hundreds of them.
The Marines were also lined up along the doorway to the funeral home, wearing their dress blues. Once inside at the funeral service we sat behind Eric’s family with Hannah at our feet. The Chaplain gave a wonderful service and even talked about Hannah. And then, each Marine came up one-by-one, to salute Eric’s casket that was guarded by two Marines. This took quite some time as they walked slowly and their salutes were in slow motion. Row by row, everyone went up to the casket to bid their farewells. When it was our turn, we walked up with Hannah and made a promise to Eric that we would always take good care of his girl. Hannah sniffed the casket and we could hear people crying at this sight. We heard Bobbie say, “Look at Hannah.” It was like Eric’s Hannah was saying good bye in her own special way.
When we arrived at the cemetery, the Patriot Riders were all there too. After the formal folding of the flag that had been covering Eric’s casket, it was handed to Bobbie by a Marine. There was a 21 gun salute..
After the cemetery cleared out, Eric’s closest friends pulled out a flask. They all took a drink from the flask and then bumped a toast to Eric’s casket. They said they had to have one last drink with their friend. It was touching to see this.
After the service at the cemetery, there was a luncheon where Claire received a plaque from Governor Doyle declaring flags were to fly at half staff from dawn until dusk. Then it was open mic for anyone to tell stories about Eric while a slide show played in the background which included pictures of Hannah from her puppy days to adulthood.
At the end of the luncheon, Bobbie asked Steve to let people say good bye to Hannah. Although we didn’t know Eric, Hannah was a big part of his life and we felt we needed to have her with Eric’s friends and family during this difficult time.
As we were leaving, I took the American flag scarf from around Hannah’s neck, that she wore all day in honor of Eric, and handed it to Eric’s fiancé Claire. She looked at me through her tears and thanked me.
Hannah is a certified Pet Therapy Dog and has been doing therapy work at nursing homes and hospitals. She passed her Canine Good Citizen’s test and therapy testing with flying colors. Eric would be so proud of her. The love Eric gave Hannah in her first six years shows through as she continues to touch many lives, ours included.
Hannah passed away in 2015 at the age of 14.