Benji Sleeps Over


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September, 2004
Steve’s Never Had a Houseguest So Smart.

It was 10 p.m. when I received a call from Joe Camp’s wife, Kathleen. She had explained that Joe and Benji had come to the Chicago earlier that same day to consider further surgery on Benji’s eye.

Veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Sam Vainisi had previously operated on the pup’s eye. The good news was that further surgery wasn’t required after all. The bad news was that Joe and Benji’s flight back to the West coast was turned back to Chicago late at night. There wasn’t a single hotel room to be found.

Naturally, we were thrilled with the prospect of having a movie star stay with us. Benjj’s arrival wasn’t exactly the Hollywood glamour I expected it would be. I frantically searched for a red carpet and Klieg lights. I couldn’t find either.

I waited for Benji’s entourage, and his stretch Limo. Instead, there was Joe lugging luggage in one hand and a leash and plastic bag in the other. Well, even celebrities have to squat. He used the plastic bag.

After all these years of marriage, it was the only time I’ve ever been disappointed in my wife. You’d figure she’d be wearing an evening gown to greet the matinee idol. Instead, she grabbed a bathrobe to put over her PJ’s.

Chaser’s attitude was most disappointing. Our 13-year old Brittany had to be coaxed out of bed to say ‘hi.’ I suppose Lassie was more her generation.

Lucy, our second dog, did a few tricks from her repertoire, but even clever Lucy wasn’t smart enough to challenge Benji to a “trick off.” Even exhausted after a day of travel, Benji did everything but wash and dry the dishes while performing in our kitchen.

The next morning all the dogs took a walk. As we returned to our building, our neighbor’s Tibetan Terrier, Boots Montgomery, was leaving with her owner, Joan. Benji and Boots Montgomery met briefly just outside the elevator. They had a big time disagreement. Boots began with “Grrrr. Ruff! Grrrr.” Benji responded in kind. “You’re not very welcoming to Benji,” I told Boots. She and Joan went on their way.

Later, after Joe and Benji caught their flight, I phoned Joan. “Boots Montgomery argued with Benji,” I said.

“Yes, you said that,” she said.

“No, I mean the Benji,” I repeated. “Benji. Movie star Benji!”

I didn’t hear a response for the longest time; then I heard what people aren’t suppose to hear when the other person puts a hand over the phone to block the sound. But, of course, I heard every word – albeit, a bit muffled, “Boots Montgomery, you were a bad girl today! That was Benji. Boots Montgomery, shame on you.”

Two days later, I received a lovely letter of apology via email from Boots Montgomery to forward to Benji. Off course, the apology was accepted. Like the Benji movie, “Benji Off the Leash,” (available on DVD), this story had a happy ending.