I knew I was going to rescue, and I lived in an apartment alone, working full-time, so I felt I needed a small, adult dog and preferred a less barky breed. Breed quizzes pointed me toward Italian greyhounds, so I went to visit a breeder who did rescue. The breeder and the dogs were lovely, but it just didn’t feel right. There was a wait list at the pound for little dogs, and I was antsy to find my new best friend. I was sure she was out there. I say “she” because I really wanted a female.
I called the Capitol Area Humane Society in Lansing, MI, and they had two small dogs. One female terrier mix, and a male dachshund mix. I knew that would never work out, but I thought I’d visit the female. My mom insisted on coming with me, she wanted to be there to keep me from “getting too emotional”. We saw a pitiful little black dog in a huge kennel and walked right by. He was a doxie mix, and I was determined to get the right dog. The terrier was too big, unfortunately, and I was getting ready to leave when we walked by the little black dog one last time and my mother burst into loud sobs.
She would not tell me what was wrong, and she was sobbing so hard we had to stop. I took another look at the little black fellow and noticed he had a scabby nose from trying to get out of the kennel. His paperwork said his name was Benny, and that the reason he was surrendered was: “disobidient” [sic]. And because that was so pitiful, I had to take a closer look.
Somehow I realized this was the right one, even though he was nothing at all that I’d wanted. I filled out an application, a little hurriedly because the shelter was closing for the night. The shelter staff bent the rules and took a chance on a first-time dog owner who didn’t even have her apartment lease in hand (a requirement they were normally strict about), and sent Disobidient Benny home with me and my mother. Finally, Mom told me that she’d been crying because she felt so sorry for the little, floppy-eared, scabby-nosed boy who’d been given up for being disobedient, spelled wrong. Who gives a dog up for not obeying? She didn’t want to pressure me, but she was going to adopt him if I hadn’t.
His first night home, I put Benny in a crate to sleep because that’s what you do with a new dog. He cried all night long and ended up in bed with me by morning. That’s where he slept for nearly every night of the twelve years I got to live with him. And almost every morning, he would greet me with a stretch and smooches, while I would say to him, “I missed you while I was sleeping!”
Benny became my best friend. He was around before my husband, and Joseph always knew it would be a bad idea to be drowning at the same time as Benny, because I’d have to save Ben first. Because of Benny, I got involved in animal rescue, eventually adopting seven more dogs and two rabbits. Benny inspired my husband and I to foster more than 50 animals in the last 10 years. Benny inspired me to recruit lots of people, including my wonderful sister, to adopt and foster even more animals. He really will live on forever.
There were some very hard times nearer the end of his life, times I thought we couldn’t make it through. Benny lost one of his beautiful eyes and came close, many times, to losing the other. He taught me how to love unreservedly, and that I can do whatever it takes for the ones I love. I am proud that I always loved him and never once wished him gone, no matter how hard things got. And, though nobody really thought I could do it, I eventually learned to let go.
Thank you, dear friends, for having Arby’s (always his favorite food, since the night I adopted him and he tried to climb into the drive-thru window) in celebration of my best friend’s long, mostly-lovely life on what we would’ve called his 18th birthday. I know for sure Benny is still Benny, that he still loves Arby’s, and that he would love this celebration. Here’s a photo of him in younger years, which is surely how he looks now.
Bridget Eireann Adams
February 11, 2011