23: Resting at Her Feet

23: Resting at Her Feet

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

Resting at Her Feet

Fun fact: Most dogs can’t see enough detail or color to enjoy watching TV.

It wasn’t that he didn’t like her. It was more that Benny just didn’t care about her one way or the other. The only reason he paid her any attention at all was because his best buddy did, and that was only for a few minutes at dinnertime. Only then would Benny acknowledge her presence, and then, only until his food was served.

Surprisingly, she didn’t mind getting the canine cold shoulder, because she knew a sacred bond existed between a boy and his puppy — even if this one-year-old dog wasn’t quite a puppy anymore, and this sixty-nine-year-old man wasn’t quite a boy anymore.

Unfortunately, one night, Benny’s best friend became ill, and people that neither of them knew came to help. They took his buddy away, and Benny never saw him again. In the days and weeks that followed, he searched for him, and several times he thought he’d found him. After all, his scent was everywhere — on his chair in the kitchen, on his coat hanging by the stairs, and even in his shoes — still waiting for him out on the breezeway. Benny became excited when he heard a car pull in the driveway or voices in the street, but in the end, it wasn’t him.

For weeks, he moped and refused to eat, but then one day he realized something that previously had meant little to him: She was still there. That night, when they were alone, Benny slowly came over and sat at her feet. She gently began to stroke his shiny golden hair, and then something totally unexpected happened: She hugged him. From that moment forward, their relationship changed, and for each of them, the healing began.

They would become inseparable companions who enjoyed taking long neighborhood walks, stopping to talk with everyone they met along the way. Whether watching Animal Planet on TV or doing nothing at all, they did it together — a team of two — her confidant and his new best friend. The proof of this relationship was revealed in the greeting cards she routinely sent to friends and family acknowledging holidays and special events. Depending on one’s relationship with her, the card was signed: “Love, Doris & Benny,” “Nana & Benny,” or “Mom & Benny.” And those of us receiving these cards understood the importance of the closing salutation. We knew their story was one of recovery and rebirth, of two needy souls who found each other, and of the enduring friendship that resulted. It was a good story, too, but like all stories, it had to end eventually.

If Benny had one fault that clearly surpassed all others, it was that he wasn’t immortal. As he approached his thirteenth year, his body began to reveal evidence of the passage of time. Their long walks gave way to shorter excursions — a consequence of his new hip difficulties. Other issues developed, and by early December she wondered whether he’d make it through New Year’s.

And then, she received a devastating diagnosis of her own.

They both survived the holidays, and for the next few months, the three of us spent practically every day together as she suffered the procedures that took her strength and, eventually, her hair. And Benny continued to be her most faithful friend and supporter. It was as if he knew that she still needed him, and in truth, she did. Although rising from his rug and walking required increasingly more effort, he struggled to greet her every time I brought her home from her daily treatments. His puppy-heart still overflowed with unconditional love. His old body was still ready to snuggle. When her exhaustion forced her into her chair, I would sit nearby in the rocker, but Benny knew just where she needed him to be… resting at her feet.

Benny continued to provide his love and support throughout the duration of her treatments, and when they were finally over, he died.

Sadly, her healthy reprieve didn’t last. For a second time, she fought the good fight, but this time, when she knew the battle was lost, she gracefully accepted the inevitable and had but one request — that the ashes of her beloved Benny be interred with her.

On a sunny November morning, we lay Mom to rest with Dad. And just as she’d asked, Benny was there, too. As always, he was just where she needed him to be… resting at her feet.

~Stephen Rusiniak

More stories from our partners