Smitten is how I’d describe the picture sent to my phone. There in the palm of my hand was the image of a small dog with grey hair bordering on the color mine was turning.
“His name is Buddy and he’s yours if you want him” a second text followed.
Within a day that scrappy Schnauzer/Jack Russell was in my house. He sniffed around checking every corner. Only once did he lift his leg on an old, wooden crate I had in the corner; a salvage plinth holding some flea market treasure.
He listened when I told him no and sat when I asked if he could. Smart dog. At year old he was already well heeled.
On any Saturday morning before our walk he stands at the edge of the kitchen and watches me. When I ask if he likes bacon (who doesn’t?) he twists his head to the side inquisitively. He watches everything I do, surveying each moment and gives his own set of approvals when we snuggle on the couch.
I’ve always liked the naming process for pets. Buddy was an apropos name but I never liked it much and he didn’t really respond to it. Past pets were named for music greats like two cats named Miles & Nina, two cattle dogs with the easy-ta-holler, singsong names Roxie & Maddie and a plethora of “plumber” names, Al, Lou and Pete. I even had a Shi-Tzu named Turd. But that’s a different story.
This dog was different and the first I’d had as a newly single dude. He needed a great name and Buddy sure wasn’t it. So I tried a handful of aged rocker names: Jimi, George, Roy, Ozzy. Nothing. The response was the same, he’d look at me on the first try but on the second he’d look away, never meeting my gaze again. He wasn’t deaf or anything, just uninterested.
That little fella sure likes being in the car, though. And I took him everywhere. Wanna go to the store? Yup. Wanna go to the car wash? Yup. Everywhere. Anywhere.
Best yet he didn’t mind the random music I played enroute to wherever. One time was different, though. Something so extraordinary happened that I wasn’t sure I saw it correctly — even after a cartoonish triple-take.
Driving, windows down and Elton John blaring —
“Oh Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
Oh but they’re so spaced out, Bennie and the Jets
Oh but they’re weird and they’re wonderful”
Paws on the window ledge looking out at the world going by he turns to me. I hardly noticed at first.
“Oh Bennie she’s really keen
She’s got electric boots a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine, oh”
He was looking around the car, trying to find that sound.
“B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets”
Then, he makes this silly howl-gulping sound — I later find out he uses this when he wants me to pay attention to something.
“Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie and the Jets”
He’s looking right at the speaker in the car. Then at me.
I pause the music and he looks around. Where did that sound go?
I restart it.
Pulling over to the side of the road to watch him. Is he smiling? Yes! And turning clockwise in the seat in a sort of prance!
This was the first moment I knew Benny (my preferred masculine spelling) was extraordinary.
Maybe sometime soon I’ll tell you about the time I found out he could talk.