I’ve been asked, “Where did the tide turn to make it cool to rescue mutts?”
My answer is one word: Benji.
Benji movies, starting in 1974, have entertained millions of people. Creator Joe Camp spoke up when few did about the many advantages of adopting shelter dogs, like Benji.
Benji was intentionally a scruffy looking mutt of an unidentifiable pedigree. And, clearly Benji was brilliant. So, if Benji was brilliant, your shelter dog may be too, that was a message Camp conveyed. Having a shelter mutt became “cool.” Back in the 1970s, shelter dogs were thought to be “used goods,” which Camp proved a myth.
All the Benji movies had much in common. There were clearly good guys and bad guys. At times, fumbling bad buys actually got a laugh as cartoon characters; there was never graphic violence. And, Benji was more than a one dimensional canine character (like Lassie). At times you might wipe a tear, call it sentimental or sappy—we’re all still human, and Benji movies sparked the humanity in all of us.
Has the world become too cynical for Benji? I sure as hell hope not. But, we’ll soon find out. A reboot of Benji, now the vision of Joe’s son, Brandon, kicks off on Netflix on March 16. Personally, I think we need Benji more than ever, and I’m so grateful that he’s back.