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In the continuing saga of Benji, the feisty eight-pound Taco Terrier courtesy of the Boone County Humane Society Shelter, there's more to share.

The little fella has been with us about six months. And our home now belongs to him, although we've signed over no deed or power of attorney.

His transition from homeless to a home filled with several pillowy dog beds, two square meals daily and a weekly bath has been about as seamless as two people in their 70s acquiring a 4-year-old canine could ever expect.

After initially escaping seven times from the fenced yard, he finally resigned himself to being satisfied with an enormous backyard and dog friends on two sides. The third yard has six chickens he continually studies.

As most dogs will, Benji has mastered our body language and at least 100 words. He knows when it's time for Jeanetta to attach his harness for the daily walk. And he reminds her by constantly pacing at her feet until she finally hooks him up as he joyfully cooperates.

He discerns the signs of our imminent departures from the house, even when we try to keep them subtle.

And precisely at 6:45 each evening, his internal clock rouses him from yet another afternoon nap to begin jumping between our chairs as a reminder that "it's time." The boy does love his bedtime where we lay our heads on pillows and he finally gets eye-to-eye with us after straining his neck looking way up all day.

We succumbed to his fuzzy will a month back and began allowing him to sleep in our bed rather than in his kennel in the next room. That happened despite mutual reassurances that he needed his own bed. Now he takes turns all night shifting between her and me. He's an equal opportunity snuggler.

Unlike the many dogs Jeanetta and I have raised across our lifetimes, Benji is notably different in several ways.

First, he seldom barks unless a neighbor dog gets him riled over whatever it is that irritates his canine buddies. Even then, his bird-like chirping wouldn't intimidate a shy, two-legged rabbit.

The boy has become an unabashed lover of all humans, eager and happy to greet them at the door. He even sits in their laps and makes goo-goo eyes to better mesmerize his love interests. Occasionally, he's been known to offer an unanticipated kiss on the nose, all of which has caused me to call him Svengali Benji.

As with many other dogs (perhaps yours) he has an uncanny ability to read our intentions and thoughts. His expressive face gives him away every time.

Between his sharply developed senses and intuition, we suspect he could make straight A's in any Ivy League canine obedience school.

I mentioned walks earlier. There's nothing the boy loves better than a two-plus-mile walk at full speed. He's fortunate to have a human mother who prefers walking fast, only she can't keep up with his skinny little legs, which makes it difficult to tell who is walking whom.

She told me the other day that he loved to walk (sprint) in the middle of the street, stopping only occasionally to literally smell the flowers. "He decided the other day to whiff a flower that had fallen into a gutter," she said. "He took a deep breath, seemed to actually smile slightly, then kept on walking."

I might add that's a far cry from the day months back when he escaped his leash to chase a deer pell-mell down a steep ravine. That escapade took Jeanetta a good 30 minutes before she could finally gather him in her arms and climb out of the predicament. Some may recall I mentioned that adventure in a previous column. His rascally runaway days, thankfully, appear forever gone.

Benji didn't care much at first for car rides. He'd clearly never been on many. But that's sure changed since we bought him his own elevated canine back seat that safely confines him within its padded sides in case of an accident. He sits up, intently watching our backs in the front seat.

He also finally can see out the window and has learned to stick his fluffy white/gold presidential pompadour outside and let those floppy, thumb-sized terrier ears flap freely in the breeze. Plus, he gathers voluminous news from the passing world through an impossibly active nose. He seems to particularly enjoy whiffs from Mexican restaurants.

Because he began turning up his nose at canned dog food we, in our all-out quest to spoil the boy beyond rotten, began buying freeze-dried raw food. They say that's the best nutrition one can give their dog. So who are we to argue? He now wolfs down meals and licks the metal bowl until we hear his collar tags stop clinking.

If we are what we eat, this little fella's on the road to a long and healthy life.

And that's a good thing where we're concerned, because quirky, fun and lovable little Svengali Benji in a short period has endeared himself to us as closely as any canine possible could. Simply put, we've been Svengalied. But in a good way.

Now go out into the world a treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.


Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected]

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