February 14, 2000 – January 29, 2016
By Jan Quaritius
With Larry Sherman
(Edited by Kathy Lowrie)
He taught us so much
Last Friday, Larry and I faced the toughest and most emotional decision we have faced during our thirty-four years together. We said goodbye to our four-legged hero, Benji. For the last sixteen years, he was constantly by our sides, providing nothing but unconditional love and laughter.
To say that Benji was the most precious, loving spirit is an understatement! We were honored to be his guardians. He taught us so much about life. And, ultimately, death.
Although I literally rescued him from the streets of Los Angeles, I really don’t know who rescued who. Beloved in the neighborhood, our doe-eyed Wheaton mix was known affectionately as “Doodles, Doodlebug, Benjers, and The Doggie Lama.” Everyone adored him: kids, moms, dads, grandparents, neighbors AND other dogs.
He did take exception to cats and squirrels, however.
Back in 1992, when six-month old Benji came into the picture, our cats, Kali and Ginger, were the queens of their domain. Needless to say, the two felines did not take kindly to this scruffy, scabbies-ridden kid from the streets of LA. Rough at first, they eventually learned to tolerate each other.
Meanwhile, Benji prospered, growing into the healthy guy with the luxurious coat and glorious temperament he was born to have.
In 2005, while in Costa Rica, we adopted Tico, a tiny, 2.5lb Chihuahua rescue, adding him to our pack. From the moment Tico met Benji, until the very end, they were attached at the hip! Life after Benji would never be the same for Tico, who followed Benji around like a shadow and was relentless in hanging onto the hair under his chin.
They were inseparable. When going to Hermosa Animal Hospital for check-ups, for example, Dr. Steve Liebl would always refer to Tico as Benji’s “wingman.” Benji HAD to have a wingman!
For sixteen years, Benji brought us joy, laughter at his goofiness, and—most importantly—unconditional love.
I first saw him sitting on the corner of Martin Luther King Blvd. and the 110 Freeway off-ramp, looking as though he were waiting for a bus. Better yet, a homeless kid, holding a sign that read “Will work for food.” I saw him several more times, and each time we made very special eye contact. About month later, I saw him again, this time on the back road by my office in downtown LA, not too far from where we first spotted each other.
He was emaciated and had dirty, tangled dreadlocks from head to toe. He could barely stand up. I was determined to help the fella.
During the weeks that followed, I gave him kibble and water and made a bed for him in a window well across the street. I couldn’t get too close to him, he was tentative, wary and clearly ill. I’d back up after leaving food.
On weekends, I’d go back downtown to feed him, all the time trying to get closer. No deal!! But on one particularly miserable rainy day, I was determined to capture the little guy. My friend Wendy and I drove downtown in Larry’s truck, armed with Kentucky Fried Chicken and a crate. By now, he was somewhat trusting of me.
He was also desperate for help and seemed to know I offered it.
When he saw the crate, in fact, he walked right into it and laid down. He was done with the street! With the crate by my side, his swollen nose resting on my fingers, he confirmed the bond we were beginning to form with each other. We drove straight to a vet, one recommended by Wendy, a vet known for her work with rescues.
The Disney Dog
In the back exam room, the vet asked, “What’s his name?” She read my blank expression. “He looks like the Disney Dog, Benji,” she said. No argument from me!
On that cold stainless slab, he was shivering and just staring at me. One of the techs got a multicolored afghan to help quiet him. I helped shave off all his dreadlocks, but he was an utter mess!! Covered in sores, mange and a host of other nasty ailments. The vet said it appeared his organs were on the verge of shutting down. Benji was sick, really sick.
That’s when the vet said, “I hope you are not attached to this guy; he may not make it.”
Too late for that!
Over the next four months, Larry and I nurtured Benji back to health. We made a bedroom for him in our garage, carpeted and fully furnished for a Canine King. Soft music played 24/7. He definitely got the royal treatment. The rest is history.
Given six months
In May 2014, he was diagnosed with Soft Tissue Sarcoma, cancer that does not metastasize, but continues to grow. He was given six months. He stayed around for more than a year. Benji was a powerhouse of stubborn! The last few months, he had massages and went swimming. He loved being in the water. It made him so happy.
His last two weeks, he could no longer hide the struggle. We made him as comfortable as possible. It became apparent that we needed to help him cross that proverbial “Bridge.” On Friday morning, January 29, 2016, we called Dr. Amy of Choice Veterinary Care in Inglewood. It was the most difficult phone call imaginable. Dr. Amy came to the house.
That evening, heartbroken and saddened beyond comprehension, we said good-bye to our Doodlebug. Peaceful now, he’s running free in the heavens.
“We’ll meet you in the light, Benji. Blessings, sweet boy.”