REMEMBERING “BENJI”-A MONTAUK PIONEER COVER MODEL OF 2006 (written on May 20, 2009

Remembering “Benjiā€¯ A Montauk Pioneer Cover Model of 2006 by Patria Baradi Pacis (Written on May 20, 2009) They say that ” time heals all wounds.” It’s been a year since our German Shepherd “Benji” A Montauk Pioneer Cover Model of the July 7, 2006 issue went to dog heaven on May 20, 2008. Although the heartache of losing one’s best friend has lessened and I don’t cry as much anymore, it still hurts. Once in a while, something will remind me of Benji. The dog in a maroon pick up truck who still barks when passing by our house waiting for Benji to run to the window and bark back. The deer, a family of five, who come at 5 p.m. to leisurely graze on our lawn with one eye on the lookout for Benji. Seasonal neighbors asking how our Benji is, wondering why they have not seen him. A postcard addressed to Mr. Benjamin Pacis, reminding us that one of his medication is due for a refill. That’s when the sad feeling comes back and I get teary eyed just thinking of Benji and how much I still miss him. When Benji died, many said: “You must get another dog right away” That was an inconceivable idea! How could anyone even think of replacing our Benji so soon? People mean well but my husband Cam and I needed to mourn for a while. Benji was very special to us. Yes, he had his faults of being over protective of his master, especially his Daddy Cam, but that was the German Shepherd in him. Whenever we danced a slow dance , Benji would get jealous and try to separate us by walking between our legs. Whenever someone came too close to Dad, Benji made sure that no harm would come to him at the expense of our friends. The thought of adopting another dog was the farthest from our mind. We both know how much work it takes to own a dog. It’s almost like taking care of a baby. They must be fed, bathed, clothed, taken out, and schooled, never mind the doctor’s bills. We were getting used to this new found freedom. This past winter, when Montauk froze along with the rest of the world, my family and I were lucky to thaw out in Kauai, Hawaii at 59F degrees compared to negative digits everyone else was having. Since we had no one to rush home to, we were able to extend our stay much longer. When we had Benji, we would experience a separation anxiety and have to rush home. When we traveled, we took Benji in our Benjimobile (motor home) so we wouldn’t have to leave him behind. Still we were limited to where we could go. During our extended vacation at Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club on Poipu Beach, we befriended a couple named Luis and Shari. After they found out that we had recently lost our Benji, we were invited to their home. There we met a two years old, female, black Labrador mixed, named Penguin (so called because she has a white chest and toes) She was a dog tied outside the house with a long leash. The couple could not keep her inside the house since they already owned four poodles. We were told that they were looking for someone to adopt Penguin since their niece Brittany, who originally adopted, her could not keep her. If they didn’t find someone to keep her, Penguin would have to be returned to the Humane Society Animal Park. When we heard this, our heart sank. The thought of Penguin being returned to the pound and perhaps being euthanized was unbearable. She was a lovable dog and just needed a lot of attention. However, my husband and I knew that adopting her was out of the question, especially bringing her from Hawaii to Montauk, NY and all the arrangements that would have to be made in advance for travel. We never gave it another thought. We did offer to walk and give her obedience training every day, so that she wouldn’t be tied up all day and the chances of her being adopted would be greater if she learned some tricks. Our vacation ended and we returned back to Montauk. I kept in touch with the couple through e mails always asking if Penguin found a new home. The answer would always be “not yet.” Last month, I received an e mail from Shari saying that her sister, Joni, who came to visit her from California couldn’t stand seeing Penguin all tied up so she brought her back to California in the hope that she could find her a new home. It took a 6 hour plane ride, a three hour bus ride and a car ride to get Penguin to Tehachapi, CA near the Mojave Desert. Shari mentioned that this would be our last chance to adopt Penguin, if we really wanted her to be ours. Still, my husband and I prayed that she would find a new home, since we still were not ready for another dog. Days later, I called California to see how Penguin was doing, and was told that there was no luck in finding her a home and that the Labrador Rescue People were going to pick her up that afternoon because her six dogs, two horses could not get along with Penguin. This was a nightmare! I cried all night. I begged Joni not to get rid of her yet. My husband and I could not let this happen. We have to save Penguin the second time around. After discussing all the pros and cons in having another dog, we decided that all the love that Penguin would bring us is worth all the sacrifices we would have to make in the future. Cam and I got on our cell phones and called all our relatives that lived in the whole state. We found our niece Imelda, a nurse from Oxnard ,who was willing to pick Penguin up after her twelve hour shift. Imelda was able to convince Joni to bring Penguin to a Boarding Kennel half way and to leave her there until she could be picked up. The next day, my husband, who was suffering from the flu, flew to LAX, bought a kennel, rented a car and drove to Oxnard. He found Penguin tied outside again because Imelda had just gotten a puppy and feared that the two would not get along. It took Cam three hours to JFK, five hours on Delta Airlines to LAX another one hour to get to Oxnard plus the return to get our Penguin. I said to myself: if Penguin makes it to Montauk, she deserves to live! We now know that Penguin was heaven sent. The new parents we prayed for turned out to be us. We didn’t even have to train her to be housebroken, or go through the puppy faze of “chewing everything in sight” especially my shoes! She even got all the necessary vaccinations and an ID chip in case she gets lost. When we brought her to our Vet, we were told she was in excellent health and was given an A+ grade. She brings us so much joy and loves to be hugged and kissed. Presently, whenever the dog in the maroon pick up truck passes by, she is answered by a new bark, Penguin’s. Every evening at 5 o’clock, Penguin patiently awaits her new deer friends by staring at them through the glass doors. We’ve introduced her to our neighbors too. Soon mail from her Vet or dog stores will be addressed to Princess Penguin Pilaria Pacis. Maybe someday, she too will be a Montauk Pioneer Cover Model after some modeling lessons. Penguin can never replace our son Benji but she will be the daughter we never had. Oh, yes, Penguin allows us to dance together. There is not an ounce of jealousy in her. She loves us both equally! P.S. The following year, the Pioneer held a photo contest of Montauk. Benji was awarded Fourth place and Penguin made her debut on line. Hollywood here we come! Authors Bio Patria Baradi Pacis, born in the Philippines, grew up in East and West Africa as a diplomat’s daughter. She graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University & her last career job was with Delta Airlines of thirty years. As a contributor of articles and photos for the Montauk Pioneer, she was voted ‘Best of the Best Reporter’ in 2007 and 2008. She is a writer-photographer living happily in Montauk, NY since 1995, with husband Cam Pacis & labrador Princess Penguin!