Benny and the Pets


Wearing our Green Bay Packer shirts in eager anticipation of the Sunday nighttime game, we streamed Christmas lights along the bushes in our front yard. The SUV with Ohio plates inched our way. A small cluster of fear immediately gathered in our stomachs as we noticed a “LOST DOG” sign taped on all four sides of the rear window.

The couple’s distress was instant and palpable. From Ohio, the couple shared that they were visiting family, and their dog, a beautiful show Collie named, Benny, escaped two days ago. “Two days ago,” we murmured. “What can we do?”

In low, discouraged voices, Benny’s mom and dad said they’d already contacted the humane society, law enforcement, pet control, and had posted across multiple social media platforms: Facebook for lost pets with 14000 members, Craig’s list. They told us Benny has a chip and his tag reveals all of their contact information.

Our King German Shepard and Shih Tzu bounded over to greet Benny’s owners. Twinges of guilt fell over us, as the dogs wagged their greetings.

Benny’s mom and dad had approached every house in our neighborhood—and surrounding neighborhoods—with flyers. Everyone talked about the beautiful lost Collie from Ohio.

Our Christmas cheer dimmed, we left the lights and went inside, no longer had the desire for lights and decorations. When we tried to redirect our thoughts, that physiological internal tugging on our heartstrings brought us back to the lost Collie.

Evolutionary science tells us that it takes four positive thoughts to override one negative one. We fought back images of Benny in context with one or more coyotes that we’ve seen in the rear woods of our backyard. We had faith. We said prayers. And we focused our thoughts and sent energy to Benny’s mom and dad who experienced so much despair.

When we drove to the grocery store, our eyes were wide open, hoping for a Benny sighting. We returned after 7 p.m. with fish, chicken, and meat to grill. At 7:57, as Geoff adjusted the salmon on the grill, he shout-whispered, “Oh my God. It’s the Collie.”

Our dogs barked and Benny took off into the woods. Benny’s mom and dad were here in moments, with a search team of 9 people in tow. With a current sighting after 2 days of desperate agony, we were all on a mission. A team of strangers and friends on a mission with renewed hope.

Benny’s mom and dad stayed with us on our back patio for five hours as we all took turns combing the neighborhood. Benny’s bed and food was there. The smell of our grill most likely attracted Benny. Geoff grilled until midnight, re-grilling hamburgers to tempt Benny to return.

Benny’s “sister,” a beautiful golden retriever named, Lexi, came too. We introduced Lexi to our dogs so she might bark and call Benny to come to us. She obliged quickly and happily picked up her brother’s scent in our backyard. We practically force-fed Benny’s mom and dad who had not eaten since the Collie’s disappearance 48 hours before.

Benny’s mom and dad expressed their gratefulness over and over along with effusive apologies for us missing the Packer game. (We assured them that their well-being was far more important, even though we had traveled from Florida to Lambeau Field in Green Bay the Sunday before, and our dog is named, Lambeau.)

The collective energy and hope became pervasive in our neighborhood and greater community. Cars rolled up slowly, sharing they had been looking for Benny for six hours, just because they love animals; several of them lived three zip codes away.

Because of Benny, we witnessed in our community an outpouring of compassion and humanity. Because of Benny, we had the gift of meeting our neighbors as we searched yards. Because of Benny, our pets remained by our side and beautifully followed each and every one of our directives. They knew.

Benny’s mom and dad left his bed on our patio and left around 1 a.m. They said they’d return early in the morning. Their eyes revealed hope mixed with despair.

With multiple tiptoed “last checks” on our overnight lit patio, we did not fall asleep until after 2:30 a.m. and awoke about every 45 minutes until at 5:30, we felt the need—an urgency almost—to get up. It’s that sleep that is nowhere near REM because even though you try to redirect your thoughts, the pit in your stomach alerts your brain that something is very wrong.

Yet in that something-is-wrong-moment, there is still a spark of light—of faith—that urges its way into our souls. Perhaps that is what awoke us and propelled us to awaken. Our dogs, like sentries, stayed by our sides; their usual morning routine of wagging and petting relegated to the silent focus they sensed in us.

For decades, we have been accused of being Pollyannas, and having optimism is one accusation we graciously accept.

Before using the bathroom, we race-walked into the family room to look at the patio in hopes that like Santa, at midnight on Dec 24, Benny would soon be there.

We booted up our computer and searched the lost pet websites. And we looked again at our patio and saw the food bowl had been untouched, but Benny’s bed was gone. We grabbed our cell phones and with the fervor and dexterity of a Millennial, we rapidly punched our messages and voice mail. “Benny is safe and sound,” Benny’s dad stated.
“We found him a few minutes ago on your street.”

Did our pets know at 5:30 that morning that Benny had just been reunited with his mom and dad? Did they stir—just subtlety enough—to inspire us to get out of bed at the very moment Benny was spotted?

We went over to see our new Ohio friends and to meet Benny formally. Covered and matted with hundreds of burrs, Benny smiled as dogs do, and momentarily laid his head in our hands—perhaps a gracious thank you for firing up the grill and calling in the human and canine cavalry to reclaim our own lost and found humanity.

We were able to infuse comfort, support, and hope to Benny’s family. Please reach out and we will do the same for you.









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Poppy and Geoff Spencer