Chapter 26 – Beni Part 1

You’ve probably seen pictures or videos with this handsome little guy in other places on this site. That’s my Beni!
I always thought Gabby would be my first and only dog. But Beni found his way to me, and now he has a forever home.
Besides all his good qualities, what makes Beni special is the way we found each other.
“I’m going to lose Beni!”
It started when a casual friend of mine from Las Vegas sent me a text, upset.  “I’m going to lose Beni!”
The story followed.  She had a five month-old puppy she got from the shelter a few months before, and was relocating back near her home in another state and would be moving into a new apartment there. Her dad would not let an animal in the house under any conditions, and she needed to stay with her father for two months while she saved money for her new apartment.
The following day, she asked me if I wanted Beni if she was forced to part ways with him.  I knew I did not want another dog, and planned on Gabby being my one and only. Knowing how I would feel if I lost Gabby and thinking 8 weeks of inconvenience is no reason to lose a dog, I offered to fly out and get Beni, watch him until she had her new apartment, then reunite them.  She was thrilled with this, I just told her to please try and find someone in Las Vegas or in her home town in the meanwhile. I wanted it to be a last resort. She could go forward without worry though, knowing she wasn’t going to lose her puppy.
She and I were not close. We just hung out whenever I was in Las Vegas, which is pretty often in a given year.  It just seemed like the right thing to do.  She did not find anyone else and I was beginning to regret my offer. In the time since I offered I had more regular communication with her, and I was starting to see things I did not like or feel comfortable with. What I really wanted to do was put her in my past. Despite this, I would not go back on my promise, as an innocent dog was hanging in the balance. Las Vegas shelters are overcrowded and he probably would never have made it out if he was returned to a shelter. So, I ended up making arrangements to go get him.
Weeks later I waited at the airport for my flight. She had told me Beni was very submissive and Gabby had tolerated other dogs, if not loved them, so I thought it would be OK. I really wanted out, but I made a promise, and I was not going to abandon the dog and have him possibly end up in a shelter.
My grandmother always said if money can solve it, it’s not a problem. I don’t think it was a statement about wealthy people, just that the most important things in life are beyond money. But in this case, money was actually an answer. I needed to watch Beni while she saved up money to get her apartment in January.
As I sat in the airport, a possible solution came to my mind. What if she had the money to get her apartment right away?

So, when we met in Las Vegas I offered to give her $2,000 cash, no need to pay me back so she could just get an apartment right away after she moved.  It was best for her, and best for Beni that they not be separated. And incidentally, I thought it would be the best for me too. Win-win-win.

She was thrilled when I made the offer and accepted. I did want to meet Beni before I left. Perhaps it was an ego thing, to meet the dog that I had just saved. We agreed to meet in the Fry’s parking lot on Las Vegas Boulevard.

The red car is parked at the place where I first met Beni.

When we met, she had a sour look on her face. Then I saw Beni on his leash.
I couldn’t restrain myself. “Oh my God, he is so cute! You didn’t send me a very good picture of him!”
She scowled. “My dad won’t even let him stay for two weeks while I find a new apartment. I guess I need to pawn him off on somebody.”
“Pawn him off on somebody?”  I couldn’t believe she had said this. How could anyone say that about their beloved dog?

No way that was happening. I told her, “We will go back to plan A. I will take him home, watch him until the beginning of January and then you can get him back when you have your apartment.”

We rode around with him in my rental car and ate lunch in it. He seemed like the saddest little dog. He didn’t smile, he didn’t show any enthusiasm, he didn’t show any interest in me.  He just seemed depressed.
The next day we met at the airport. She had him in an airline transport bag so I could take him in the cabin. For two hours in the airport, she never talked to him or let him out. He could’ve been a laptop with a dead battery in that carrier bag.
Then, when she gave him to me before I went through security, she didn’t even say goodbye to him. And when she turned and walked away, she never looked back.
It was all very peculiar. I didn’t like what I was seeing.

Déjà vu…

Beni on his way to Pittsburgh from Las Vegas

So, for the second time in my life, I met a dog in another state and the next day it was on an airplane under the seat in front of me, heading back to Pittsburgh.
I bought chicken on the plane and fed it to him, and made sure he had water too.  He was being good, but I knew he was scared.

Here is Beni in my Miata when we landed back in Pittsburgh.  I did not want him peeing in one of my BMWs and I did not know how housebroken he was. As we drove home, he got in my lap and looked out the window.  His expression was so sad and scared, it was like he was on his way to his own execution.

My friend Jerry met me at the townhouse.  I didn’t want Gabby seeing me introducing a new dog in the house.  I went in, took her out and played with her for five minutes, then Jerry brought him in.

Gabby ignored him and kept playing.  It was a complete non-event bringing him in the house. As I said before, she wasn’t interested in other dogs and did not care one way or the other as long as he did not bother her.

“He’s looking for approval,” Jerry said, motioning towards Beni.
Beni was on the sofa, looking at me.  For the first time, I saw a little doggie smile on his face.  It was not a confident smile, but it was a smile nonetheless.
Here is Beni the night he first came home.
Adjusting to his new boarding home
Beni wasn’t very confident at first. Sometimes when I was cooking, Gabby would stand in the opening of the kitchen, with Beni standing very slightly behind her. I’d open up the box of treats and Gabby would come in, grinning and wagging in anticipation.  I’d give her a treat and she would turn around and trot out with it.
As she walked past him with her treat in her mouth, Beni would stand in the opening with his head tilted and a hopeful look and a little smile on his face. It was like he was wondering, would he be getting one too? I would reach out with a treat for him, and he would come forward slowly, then gently take it from my hand.  He looked so grateful, over something so simple as a treat.


Gabby and Beni before bedtime

I always read in bed before I go to sleep. Before I turned out the lights, I would tap myself on the chest and call Gabby. Gabby would then get up, lie down on top of me, put her cheek next to mine and wag her tail.  I would give her a little hug and kiss her good night, then put her back down near my knee where she liked to sleep.

When Beni first got here, after the goodnight ritual with Gab, I would reach over and pet him and say good night. He did not get any closer and did not move. This went on for about two weeks.
Then one evening after I kissed Gabby good night and put her down, the moment I was on my back again he crawled on top of me, looked me in the eye and licked me right on the nose. Then he just looked at me.

It was so sweet.  I think he felt like part of the family now.  It’s just that, he wasn’t. He would have to go back someday, and I was afraid of what that might be like for him.

The weeks drag on…
In the weeks that followed, my dad came up to stay with me for a while.  When I would come home any time I was out, Beni would come flying down the stairs, wagging his tail and jumping up and down.
“He acts like he is my dog,” I said to Dad.
“He THINKS he is your dog,” came the reply.  “You are good to him and he spends all his time with you.  He likes to run in the yard.  He has it good.”
“Well, he really isn’t my dog.  I am supposed to give him back at the end of December.”
“He seems really happy,” Dad said.  “I bet she would let you keep him if you wanted. It sounds like she doesn’t need a dog right now.”

Still, I was not ready.  My goal was to reunite Beni and his official owner, and I hoped to see that through.  I had never mentioned possibly keeping him. Though my goal was reuniting them, I was also very concerned. She showed so little interest in him.  I deliberately avoided telling her about what he was up to, to see how much she cared and gauge her level of interest. There wasn’t any. Weeks would go by and she would not text or call to see how he was doing.  I didn’t feel like she abandoned him, and I didn’t feel like she was taking advantage of me either.  He just wasn’t a priority for her, but in a way that was abandonment.

Darlene was his biggest advocate.  “I wouldn’t give him back,” she said.  “He’s a doll. She doesn’t care about him. If you give him back he will probably end up in a shelter somewhere.  I’d hate to see that happen to him.”
I didn’t really believe he would end up in a shelter, and thought she would want him back.  Then, I heard from my “friend” in early December, after a two-week hiatus.  She didn’t ask about Beni, so I asked her how her apartment search was coming along.
“I don’t have to get an apartment for another 8 months, Dad says I can stay with him longer to save more money!”  She seemed almost excited to tell me that.
I signed up for 8 weeks… NOT 8 months.  What about our arrangement?  Didn’t she miss him?  I was in shock.
“We need to talk about Beni then,” was my reply.  I was angry.
“I understand,” she said.

The next day, she said I could drop him with her cousin in Las Vegas when I want to the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. She would get him from her later, so eventually they would be reunited… which was my goal all along. This seemed OK, then something struck me.

“Why didn’t she just watch him in October?” I asked.
“She didn’t want to, but this time I talked her into it,” came the reply.
After I hung up the phone I did not feel well.  I looked at Beni sitting there, content, looking at me warmly.  I did not like this idea.  He MIGHT end up in a shelter if her cousin never wanted to watch him before.

“It would be kind of quiet without you around here…” I thought as I looked at him.  I was definitely starting to fall for him, even if I had been holding myself back before. I didn’t want to adopt him yet, but I was afraid of what might happen to him if I gave him to anyone other than her.

I then sent her a text saying I would watch him as long as necessary.  After I sent it, I realized I had written a blank check… bad move!

She accepted, saying she was very grateful and she was worried about what would happen to him if he went back to Las Vegas.

I wish she had been more worried about him to begin with.  Now I had a dog who was becoming very attached to me, Gabby and our home, and there was no telling when he would be going back.  It wouldn’t be fair to him to have him live with us for a year and uproot him again.  It would not be fair to me, either.

We went back to life as normal, and I hoped and prayed everything would work out OK for Beni, and for me.

(Continued in Beni Part 2)