BENJI'S STORY -- THE HOMECOMING

I met Benji (AKA Shaft) for the first time late one night in
June of 1997.  It was a Saturday night and John and I
were returning home from a night at the movies.  We drove
into our subdivision, and it was very dark and quiet, the way
it normally is late at night.  As we got closer to our house,
the headlights picked up a shadowy figure in the middle of
the street.  My first thought was that a dark colored bag of
garbage had rolled into the street.  As we got closer, there
he was -- a little terrier-type dog that closely resembled
the dog that portrayed Benji in the early "Benji" movies.

What was very unusual about this first encounter was that
this little dog was not just in the middle of the road.  He
was sitting up in a begging position, facing the car, and
refusing to move.  John and I just looked at each other
thinking, "OK, what do we do now?"  John got out of the car
and walked over to him.  Benji was so happy that his whole
little body was wagging.

Because it was so late, we allowed Benji to sleep in our
garage overnight.  Since he was a stranger, I didn't want to
take any chances on having our other dogs exposed to
something he may have been carrying.  He was perfectly
happy sleeping on a pile of blankets in the garage.

The next morning I put a collar and leash on him and took
him for a long walk around the subdivision hoping someone
would recognize him or that he would recognize his home.  
We walked around for more than an hour but no one had
seen him before.  I repeated this walk two more times
during the day hoping to be able to catch more people
outside.  Still no one knew who he was.  Our final conclusion
at the end of the day was that someone who didn't want him
anymore just dropped him off in the subdivision where he
might find a new home.

Monday morning I dropped Benji off at our vet's office so
he could get his shots and a thorough examination before I
introduced him to the other dogs.  After his day at the
vet's, he was given a clean bill of health except for having
worms for which he received treatment.  The introduction
went really well and he was accepted by all.

Benji was with us for about 2 weeks when there was a knock
on the door one night.  The people lived at the far end of
the subdivision and happened to be driving by on their way
home and saw Benji playing in the backyard.  Their only
comment was, "we wondered what happened to him".  He
didn't really seem that anxious to leave with them, but he
did.

A few weeks later, I arrived home from work and was
happily greeted by Benji, who had been waiting by the
garage door for someone to get home.  He seemed so happy
to be back.  We phoned his owners to let them know he was
back, and they came down to pick him up the next day.  This
routine continued.  Whenever Benji could slip off his collar
or break his chain, he would come down to our house and
wait for us to let him in.

His owners even got a second dog, thinking maybe he was
lonely and needed company.  This made no impression on
Benji.  He still preferred his doggie buddies at our house.  
On one occasion his "people" even tried tying his chain to a
heavy cinder block.  The poor little guy must have struggled
all day long to drag that cinder block to our house.  When
we got home, there he was -- cinder block and all.

His folks started taking longer and longer to come pick him
up.  It was not unusual for Benji to be at our house for 2
weeks at a time.  This continued until September of 2002
when they came to pick him up and announced that they were
moving to another city about 45 minutes away.  It was
Labor Day, 2002, when we said our final goodbye to Benji.

Over the next year we thought of him often and wondered
how he was doing and if he ever thought about us.  The
biggest fear was that he might try and run away again to
find his way home.  We could only hope that he was fine and
adjusting well in his new surroundings.

Just before Christmas 2003 I was invited to a "Candle
Party" given by one of the techs at my vet's office.  I
usually don't attend these functions because I end up
spending way too much money.  For some reason, something
inside of me was telling me I should go to this party.  Even
John kept telling me I should go, which is not normal either.  
So this particular Sunday afternoon, I attended the party.

There were about 6 or 7 of us at the party, sitting around
the table clucking like a bunch of hens.  The subject
eventually turned to animals and life at the veterinarian's
office.  The girl who worked at the clinic starting speaking
about the "poor little dog who was brutally torn apart by
three large stray dogs that were roaming around in his
neighborhood."  His owners just happened to take him to my
vet's office because apparently they never had a vet in
their new neighborhood.  Benji hadn't been to a vet since we
took him in 1997.  The conversation continued and she told
about this poor dog actually "dying" twice on the operating
table.  My vet was able to resuscitate him each time.  I
listened to the story with great interest, wondering how this
dog's owners could let this happen -- keeping him tied
outside with no means of defending himself.

Then, as we were talking about the incident, the little dog's
name was mentioned -- SHAFT.  My heart skipped a beat,
and I stopped the conversation and started asking questions.
 What did the dog look like, the owner's name, etc.  After
all, how many dogs are there named SHAFT?  Sure enough,
it was my Benji and it suddenly became clear why I decided
to go to that party.  It was meant to be.

Sharon  (the tech) had a key to the vet's office and it was
her turn to check on the animals that Sunday.  I called John
and told him what had happened.  We all immediately headed
for the clinic.  My heart just broke when I saw him.  All his
hair had to be shaved off and there was not one square inch
of his body that wasn't stitched up.  There were deep
puncture wounds all over him.  In spite of this and in spite
of the severe pain he was in, he opened his eyes, looked at
us, and wagged his tail.

We visited Benji at the clinic every day.  He got stronger
and regained the will to live.  At first we had to hand feed
him, but later he started eating on his own again.  After
about 10 days, he was well enough to return home on the
condition that he be kept indoors.  We told the vet to speak
to his owners and tell them we would take him, but they still
didn't want to give him up.  So, once again we were
separated.

Benji had to go to the vet's for periodic checkups after the
attack, and I would always receive progress reports on him.  
He was healing nicely, but it was discovered that he had an
active case of heartworm.  He had never received
heartworm preventative medication.  So once again, his life
was in danger.

The weeks since he was attacked turned to months, and
again we lost touch.  Then on May 2, 2004, there was a
knock at the door late at night.  It was Shaft's owners.  
They told us they were in the old neighborhood visiting
friends and decided that they would stop by and ask us if
we were still interested in providing a home for Shaft.  
Keeping him indoors was hard because they were gone so
much of the time and had to find a "dog sitter".  They
finally came to the conclusion that he would be better off
with us where he would have playmates and a fenced yard to
play in.  We were overjoyed and agreed to take him.

They dropped him off at our vet's office the following
Tuesday.  He was given his shots and a checkup, and we
picked him up Tuesday night.  On Thursday, he received his
heartworm treatment as the first step to curing this disease.

Shaft's name has officially been changed to Benji.  He is
very happy to finally be living with us permanently after
seven long years of waiting.  We are very happy knowing he
will never have to leave us again.  He will always have scars
on his body from the attack last December, but those scars
will be a reminder to all of how Benji finally came home for
good.
THIS IS BENJI DURING HIS
FIRST VISIT WITH US IN 1997
BENJI AND RENO TAKEN DURING
HIS LAST VISIT IN SEPTEMBER
2002
THE PICTURE BELOW WAS TAKEN
ON BENJI'S FIRST NIGHT BACK
IN MAY 2004
BENJI'S FAVORITE BUSH IS
STILL RIGHT WHERE HE LEFT IT -
ONLY BIGGER
NOTICE THE PERMANENT SCAR
ON BENJI'S BACK LEG FROM THE
DOG ATTACK THAT NEARLY TOOK
HIS LIFE.
OH, HAPPY DAYS
BENJI AND AMBER
6-4-04
6-1-04
ALWAYS IN OUR HEARTS
BENJI BEAR
April 10, 1996 - October 4, 2012
Sweet Benji Bear….things just aren’t the same in the house since you left us 3 days ago.  You
were one of those “one in a million” dogs that we will never forget.  In you we saw
determination, courage, and the ability to fight for what you wanted until it was yours.  You
taught me so much, Ben.  

Whenever I think of you, my first vision is of that night we first met you.  There you
were…sitting up begging right in the middle of the road.  You didn’t move an inch when our
headlights caught you, sitting there in the dark.  We had no choice but to pick you up and take
you home with us.  














Our lives were shattered a couple of weeks later when your family noticed you playing in the
backyard with our other dogs and came to claim you.  It turns out they lived at the end of the
road, but we never saw you because they kept you tied on a chain in the backyard.  At night we
heard a little dog barking but never realized it was you calling for help.

Your “family” kept a big chain around your neck with the other end slipped through the hole on a
big cinder block and secured with a padlock.  Once you spent a couple of weeks with us, you
were so determined to return to us that you actually dragged that big cinder block all the way
down the road to your destination, which was to wait at our garage door for us to return from
work.  What a sight that must have been---A small 20-pound dog pulling that big cinder block
down the street.  It must have taken you all day.  But you did it.  When we got home, you’d get a
good meal and then we’d have to call your family to let them know you were back.  Usually it
would take a couple days for them to get the message and come pick you up again.    This
continued for almost five years and you felt more at home with us than your own family.  Then
you moved away to another city and we didn’t think we’d ever see you again.  But fate stepped in
two years later and once again you came back to us.

Seeing you on your death bed in 2003 broke our hearts.  The vet said you didn’t have much of a
chance of survival after a vicious dog attack in your previous owner’s backyard.  You just laid
there with your eyes closed, unable to move.  We spoke to you and you wagged your tail….the
first sign of life since the attack.  We visited you every single day and fed you by hand until you
were well enough for your owner’s to pick you up and take you home.  Again we were separated
but only for about five months because your owners decided you would be better off living with
us since the vet told them you’d have to be an “inside” dog with all your fresh wounds.  You
almost died but your strength and courage eventually brought you home to stay.

That same strength helped you fight for your life once again recently.  You were diagnosed with
cancer in March of 2012 and given only two months at the most to live.  But you had other ideas
and fought the “C” Monster to the bitter end, holding on for seven months.  It was a good seven
months with you loving your life just as you had since coming home to us.  But cancer coupled
with old age always wins, doesn’t it.

Bear, you’re a true inspiration to all of us.  You wanted a life with us and you fought hard until
you got it.  Then you fought again to keep it.  We will always think of you as the VERY SPECIAL
ONE!  You are special because you chose us.  We will always love you.

Benji’s original story continues below this video, sent to me by my dear friend, Catherine.
(You can hit the PAUSE button to stop the website music to enjoy the video more fully)
Published
October 7, 2012
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