By Manny Strumpf
Benjie is a six-year-old golden retriever.
He was born on New Year’s Day. His mother was a guide dog and his father was trained to be used by law enforcement to sniff out drugs. It was only natural, therefore, that their offspring would follow in their footsteps and he was enrolled in a training program for guide dogs in Dutchess County, NY.
Benjie flunked out.
He was afraid of loud noises. That certainly would not do for a canine whose responsibility would be a sightless human being 24 hours a day. The agency that trained him, therefore, put him up for adoption. Since a young couple from Poughkeepsie, NY had applied to adopt a flunkie, they were called and immediately fell in love with Benjie. They took him home for their young son.
Benjie quickly became a winner. He won over individuals who previously had a professed fear of animals. He won over his family’s friends and their son’s Little League team who, after each game, would play with him, let him run loose in the enclosed ball field until he was exhausted and then return to the loving hugs of his master and the rest of the team.
Benjie also won over everyone who met him. He would bring an old shoe to a stranger in order to coax him to play with him, and when it was time to do his thing, he never failed to find his leash, even in a dark room, so that he could fetch one of the members of the family to take him for a walk.
His favorite pastime? Playing with children and adults. When his new family was away at work or at school, he contented himself to lie on an old sofa and watch the TV that had been left on to amuse him, knowing that his family would be home soon to enjoy his company. His tail, always wagging, would be there to greet them.
Benjie is slowing down. He is happy now to walk rather than running loose on the ball field near the family home. He realizes that his master is about to leave for college and although he senses impending separation, he’s secure and he’s content. The late and great sports writer Grantland Rice must have had Benjie in mind when he wrote in one of his columns that: When the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, He marks not that you won or lost, but how you played the game.
No doubt Benjie would have been a wonderful guide dog. He lost the chance to help an individual find his or her own way. But he found a home, a loving family to adore him and play with him and tend to his needs. By any standards, this flunkie from guide dog school is a hero, a friend, and a loving companion to a fine family, to kids of all ages who enjoy playing with him, and to an extended family in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, who can’t wait for him to pay them a visit.
I know Benjie personally. He’s my grandson’s best friend.
Editor's note: Manny Strumpf of Milford is the author of several books, including "Murder at the Statue of Liberty."
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