Pat Kane first met the miniature long-haired dachshund whom she would later call "Benny" on a hot, dry day last June. She sensed the dog needed her help, so she whispered something in his ear. He heard her message and returned to her — for good — months later.
For 10 weeks she and her husband loved and cared for Benny, until the day in January when the dog, sick with cancer and fighting pain, died in her arms.
The relationship between the Rochester woman and the dog who loved her back was short-lived. But the memory of those days has inspired Kane to give back to other animals in need.
In Benny's honor Kane created Benny's Kitchen, a component of the food pantry. Through the organization she will collect dog and cat food and other supplies and distribute them to pets in need in the area.
A run rally through Downtown Rochester this weekend will help support Kane's cause.
"This is for the pets who may go unfed or unloved," Kane said. "A little care and kindness makes a huge difference in any life and improves our life at the same time."
Kane first met the miniature long-haired dachshund who would come to be known as Benny when the dog's owner was walking him by Kane's home near downtown Rochester last June.
"I could smell him long before I bent down to pet him," Kane remembered. "The owner said he was old and said he was not taking care of the dog’s teeth, which were sticking out of his mouth in different directions — some brown, some green. He said when he thought the dog was ready to die, he was just going to turn him loose."
Kane pleaded with the man to get Benny's teeth cared for and to relieve him of his pain. The man told Pat and her husband, Ed, that he had two new miniature long-haired dachshund and this one was old. The Kanes never saw the man again.
But, while Ed was talking to the man, Pat bent down and kissed Benny on his forehead and nose.
And then she whispered these words: "It may take a long time, but find your way back here somehow. This will be your home and we promise to love you and take care of you all the days of your life. You just have to find your way back somehow. This is where you were meant to be. We will be waiting for you. I will love you."
Looking back, Pat said, "I know it sounds stupid. But I also pray to St. Francis when I have a hard time catching wildlife that need help, too, and it has worked.
"Miracles do happen."
'Where he needed to be'
It was a beautiful warm day in October when Benny returned.
"We heard barking, loud and insistent," Pat remembered. "It’s not the neighborhood dogs — we know them all. Across the street behind the open fence facing our house was Benny, barking and not giving up and looking right at our front door."
It was Benny — all 9 pounds of old, skinny fur: teeth rotting, tail wagging furiously. He didn't have a collar but the indentation from a collar was evident on his neck, Pat said. Four months after that first meeting, he had found his way home.
He made himself right at home with the Kanes' three dogs. The next day, they took him to their vet; he was immediately put on antibiotics. After a week of medication Benny had surgery to remove all of his teeth except for his canines, which were saved to help stabilize his jaw.
"The day after surgery in his cage at the vet's, he couldn’t wait for food," Pat said. "After he came home, food became his delight. He played with our other dogs, played with us, sat and slept next to us, greeted everyone like we had raised him from a pup."
Then, the day after Christmas, the exhaustion, fear and pain caught up with Benny.
"I thought he was tired and perhaps, in his head, his whole life came crashing down around him," Pat said. "He was dumped from the only home he had ever known, and he had been in pain for years, he had new surroundings, new routine, love and attention, a home forever and food.
"But I sensed more than that. I called our vet again and we took him in for more X-rays. Sadly, Benny had cancer with no hope."
His cancer was caused from his untreated mouth infection.
"It could have been prevented and even if it couldn’t, with care, at least the last three years of Benny’s life could have been pain-free," Pat said.
One week later, things went from bad to worse.
"I picked him up and hugged and kissed him. I called the vet. I never put Benny down," Pat said. "I called my husband. In a quite dimly lit room, on a cold dark evening of Jan. 3, 2012, Benny licked my face and wagged his tail with his last breath and sadly slipped away from us."
Rally for a cause
The Kanes were only able to give Benny about 10 weeks of pain-free life. But those 10 weeks were filled with love and care and, most importantly, food.
That's how Benny's Kitchen was born. The community kitchen that operates through Rochester Community House serves dinner every third Sunday of the month to those in need in the Rochester area. It also supplies emergency food during the weeks in between the dinners.
The community house will help the Kanes identifty pets needing help.
On Saturday, will host a Run Rally to benefit Benny's Kitchen. Teams of two or three will compete on a scavenger hunt-style run through downtown — it's a business-to-business 5K of sorts.
Alexis Zuccaro is general manager of O'Connor's and said the story of Benny inspired her to get the restaurant involved in Pat's cause. Registration beings at 11; the race starts at noon. The cost is $20 per person and includes a glass and other trinkets, Zuccaro said.
"This is our fifth run rally, and we like to choose different charities each time," Zuccaro said. "This one is a great cause."
For more about the rally or to register online visit www.yourpaceormine.com.
Anyone wishing to donate to Benny's Kitchen may drop off dog food, dog bones, toys, cookies, cat food, cat treats, or litter to the Rochester Community House. Any monetary donation should be made payable to the Rochester Community House, 816 Ludlow, Rochester, MI 48307; mark it for “Benny’s Kitchen.”