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She is standing outside of Foster’s Market with an emaciated-looking Chihuahua (I think), scanning the crowd as if she is looking for someone in particular. I happened along and asked if might be of assistance. She does not readily reply with a verbal response. Instead she takes a step back and looks deeply into my eyes, followed by full spectrum inspection–as if she were judging livestock at the county fair. Awkward.

Slowly, a full smiles crosses over her face, and she declares, “I think you would make an excellent mother for Chalupa!”. I tell her that I am not exactly a dog person. She explains that she had rescued Chalupa from severe abuse, given him shots and was in the process of fattening his bony frame. However, she already had two dogs and her landlord said “no more”. It was off to the shelter for Chalupa tomorrow.

Sad, so sorry, I say. In an extension of her plea, I hear the story of how Chihuahuas are fodder for dog-fighting events in North Carolina. How they are thrown into the middle of the ring as “meat” for the vicious “contestants” to battle over. Handlers maintain a steady search for such specimens. First stop, the dog pound.

I am now exactly a dog person.

Chalupa doesn’t like his name all that much, so “Benny” gets a name change and becomes a part of our household. So begins our love affair with the sweetest canine on the planet.

Ian names the new pooch Bennington, after a British rock star. Whenever my lap is not available, Benny can be found taking a nap with Ian. Lap or nap. Doesn't really matter.

Benny wasn’t really a Chihuahua. He was a few pounds too heavy, with ears too large. We could never really figure out what he was. Some sort of mix, we figured.

Nothing special. But we loved him.

He was quiet, obedient and well-mannered. Rarely barked. He was well-loved and good-humored. In their teens years, the boys took him along for “Chic Magnet” advantages. Quite effective, I might add.

He was special to us. We loved him for what he was, whatever that happened to be.

Lance was the typical younger brother, providing the teasing and entertainment aspect for Benny's personal growth and edification.

Benny enriched our lives. He gave us laughter, pause for rest, and even comfort, at times.

Our visitors were enamored. Little dogs do that to people–turn them into mush. One particular guest named Ann saw something in Benny that no one else seemed to see. She was convinced he was of some rare, royal breed. Every time she dropped her son off to visit with my son, she would spend more time interacting with Benny than the humanoids in our household. Ann was effusive:

“This is a rare dog!”

“He is superior in ancestry. He has a regal stance. Just look at how he carries himself!”

“Benny is the most unusual dog I have ever seen.”

“I wish Benny belonged to me. I would love to show him off to my neighbors. Everyone would notice how special he is.”

We were rather amused by Ann and her fabricated perceptions. We loved Benny and thought he was all that, but she was over the top. We humored her obsession with him, but shared knowing smiles after she pulled her van out of the driveway. He was who he was, born to be who he was–but if she wanted to believe in something more, well that didn’t hurt anything.

As it turned out, I developed a severe allergy to Benny and once again, he needed a new home. Whom to ask? Duh.

Ann was thrilled, and we knew Benny would be treated like…well, royalty. Special bed (couch, more like). Special food, ordered from afar. A hierarchical position in the household. Notoriety in the neighborhood. Even a fur cape.

The Royal Bennington

Benny had a good life under my care. I spent time with him, provided for his needs and loved him well. But I didn’t believe–or think there was anything more. Couldn’t get past what appeared to be the obvious conclusion of the matter. Ann, on the other hand, had eyes to see.

In general, I like people. I take good care of those around me. I nurture my family and the children at school. I try to be intentional in encouragement with my colleagues. On a normal day, there is nothing I would not do to make more comfortable the lives of those I encounter. In short, I care about them. Focus on the essentials. Love them.

Love is adequate.

Is it enough?

After Benny had lived for four years in spoiled glory, I stopped by Ann’s place this past summer to visit him in his new digs. He seemed like a different dog. More confident. More stately. More everything.

Ann had done a little research. Talked to several vets. Made a discovery.

Bennington is a rare breed of Deer Head Chihuahua.

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