We had talked about adopting a puppy since our Golden Retriever, Jake, was entering the last bennyyears of his life. We thought the youthful companionship of a puppy would be good for Jake, and hoped that Jake would share the wisdom he had accumulated over 14 years with the newest member of the household.

We had just visited SF Animal Control and happened to walk through the SFSPCA parking lot when we spotted a young woman walking a very handsome puppy. I went to greet the puppy and found out how shy he was immediately. He tried to pull away from his walker and hide under a bush. I looked at him and knew at that moment that we wanted to adopt him.

A couple of months later, we adopted that shy puppy during the winter of 2002. We named him Benny, and for many reasons that became apparent as we became a family, Benny had a tremendous impact on our household. Even though he never completely lost his shyness, Benny grew into a mature, very intelligent, loyal companion and friend. He was a star in training classes even though he earned the reputation of being a clown.

Over the years, he traveled with us everywhere. In fact, we didn’t plan a vacation unless we knew that he could stay with us so it was all road trips to destinations that were dog friendly. Because of Benny and our self-imposed travel restrictions, we saw places and shared experiences that we never would have enjoyed otherwise. At home in the city, Benny enjoyed long walks that lasted for hours at a time and that covered just about every part of SF. We played at Fort Funston, Lands End, and Golden Gate Park.

Every Thanksgiving, when I roasted a turkey, Benny would come into the kitchen while I cooked and drop his 100 lb. body onto the floor until he got his portion. That was the only time he would wait in the kitchen while I cooked. Otherwise, he waited patiently just outside the kitchen door for his meals to be prepared. Benny was a picky eater who loved spaghetti.

Where Jake would rush head first into every situation and get himself into trouble, Benny was always cautious and methodical. Benny taught us more than I could ever have imagined. As much as we took care of Benny, he took care of us. Benny convinced me that if guardian angels are real, then they exist on earth as dogs.

I think about Benny every day. He was my guardian angel and friend. I miss him terribly. I miss his howl and can still hear it in my head sometimes. I find consolation knowing that wherever his spirit is, he is behaving like a clown and enjoying himself