Benjamin the dog is the offspring of Susie’s little white terrier and Pat’s big black retriever, one of a litter of eight I think, none of them look remotely related. We name him after my childhood parakeet, I apparently only have room in my brain for one pet name.
When we get Benjamin, he is so little that he has trouble climbing the steps leading to our house. He is just a roundish fur thing, with tiny sharp white teeth, and Caitlin who is three years old at this point has to pick him up and set him down in front of the door until he gets bigger. By now I have graduated from working at Branchwood to cleaning houses for a living and Karl has finished janitoring and is learning carpentry the hard trial and error way, coming from his awkward unschooled white collar place, with Vincent’s help picking up the nuances of hammering and suchlike. You’d think it would be instinctive but not at all.
So on that first day, we leave Benjamin home when we go to work, me and Caitlin down the road to Pat’s house where I vacuum and do laundry and kick toys under the sofa while Caitlin plays, and Karl next door to pick up Vincent and drive to a work site, and of course it is a long day for all of us, as most workdays are because we get paid by the hour and can’t afford time off. When we get home, its dark already, there is the puppy wagging his stubby tail, and all around the house are the contents of a 50 pound bag of dog food, plus the cotton batting from inside our comforter, plus a roll’s worth of toilet paper confetti.
We decide right away that Benjamin is not going to be left at home alone any more. Karl volunteers to take him on the job with him and that’s how Benjamin lives out most of the rest of his life, going with Karl everywhere, coming with us to every event, and if he isn’t welcome inside, patiently waiting in our truck or at the doorstep until we are ready to leave. We can say go stay in the car and he will trot over and jump in the open window and curl up on the seat and not bark or whine or do anything unpleasant.
He can’t talk, of course, but he can understand.
Benjamin lives with us through all our moves and transitions and adventures, lives to be a very old dog, deaf as a post and a little smelly. First he is a village dog, then a woodland dog, then a town dog, he visits New York City, he is owned by poor people and rich people, he never obeys a leash law, he never meets a dog in heat he doesn’t like or a dead woodchuck that doesn’t make good eating or a porcupine that isn’t interesting. He never sees a fleeing deer without his ears pricking up or a skunk that doesn’t need investigating.
When Benjamin is 16 he is hit by a car as he crosses Main Street in Randolph, he is out for his morning jaunt but cannot hear the traffic, usually he is so savvy but not today. We mourn him, it makes me cry just to write this. He was a very smart dog.