Gurney's Inn
February 14, 2007

Shelter Stories: Mister Ben

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It took me until now to respond to the sadness I felt after reading the column about the death in mid-January of Jerry Della Femina's family dog, Mocha. Yes, Jerry, those who have pets know exactly what you were writing about. As you said, pets come into our lives and ask for so little: a cup or two of food, a walk when they have to go and a treat every now and then. In return they give us unconditional love.

Mister Ben

I had to put down my dog Mr. Ben on January 8, around the same time as Jerry put down Mocha. He was a mixed breed shelter dog, a Terrier mix, who faced euthanasia almost 20 years before because he was considered too shy and not pretty. I adopted him for my mother in 1992 as a companion dog.

Then, Tom Brokaw's assistant found a sister for him, a neglected Border Collie mix who had escaped from a short chain that restrained her. Her name was Callie. (I was working for "NBC Nightly News" then.) My mother had had a serious stroke. Her last days were brightened by these loving dogs. They acted like they were parents watching over their child. When she died in 1997, I brought them to Southampton. (Sadly, Callie died that year, too.)

Mr. Ben then played father to two Golden Retrievers, Rolly and Linus. They learned to be good dogs from him. Mr. Ben loved life, his human and dog family and the car. I look at the front seat and tear up even now. Ben also liked cocktail parties and had better manners than many of my friends. (He was a closet drinker.) Occasionally someone would complain that their drink "disappeared."

About a year ago when Ben hit 19, Dr. Jonathan Turetsky, his vet, said Ben's days were numbered. He had a stroke and went down fast. Life wasn't fun anymore. His brother Mishka and sister Jenny, both shelter dogs, slept next to him every night to comfort him. I'm told I should have brought them with me when Dr. Turetsky put him down so they knew he wasn't coming back. They still look for him. Jenny sleeps in his bed and Mishka in places where Ben's scent must still remain. It's been very hard for them.

For pet owners who go through his experience I can only say don't let your dog or cat linger past their time. If your vet concurs, let them go. (I stayed with Mr. Ben and petted his head until the end.)

Someone sent me a card about the "Rainbow Bridge" where beloved pets go when they die. There is always food, water and warm spring weather. The old and the frail are young again. When you die, they are the first ones to greet you and you cross over the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be separated. I hope this story is true and that Ben and Mocha are playing all day with each other.

R.S.V.P. told me our dog of last week, Bugsy, was adopted. Their number is 728-3524. Please consider adopting a shelter dog. I couldn't have gotten a better one than Mr. Ben. (Thank you Classy Canine for the lovely card from your staff who cared for Ben and made him look his best all these years.)

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