The Ben's Friends Fund of CSAH was founded in 1998, all starting with a stray dog neighbors decided to call 'Ben.' This is a fund that is available for needy pets belonging to established Charlotte Street Animal Hospital clients to assist with the cost of medical care. Recipients of this funding must be nominated by an employee of CSAH, and seconded by the attending veterinarian. Thanks to Ben and the many caring people involved, we are happy to have established a fund for the animals and people that need it most. Here is Ben's story:
Nobody’s Dog by Ann Weber, Ph.D
Propped under the dogwood tree, the big hand-printed cardboard sign in Dale’s front yard demanded: “Is This Your Dog?” It was attention-getting: it got ours on our walk on this sunny September afternoon. “This” was a big, shaggy dog, grinning broadly on the grass beneath Dale’s sign as he lay in the shade of the dogwood. The friendly boy had ambled over as Dale worked in her front garden, but there had been no sign of an owner. Since Dale was a cat rescuer (with finicky lodgers), John and I offered to foster the dog, whom we named Ben. Over the days to come, we asked around, posted signs, called local vets’ offices -- all with the same response: “He doesn’t seem to belong to anyone.”
The hero of our shaggy dog story was a handsome young adult, stocky and retriever-sized. He had an expressive face in his broad head, with lop ears and huge brown eyes to match his smile. (I don’t recall ever seeing Ben not smile – not even on bath day.) With plate-sized paws, a blunt muzzle and light coloring, he resembled a pastel St. Bernard, and he sported a fantastically feathered tail. Ben had a personality to match his looks, playful and game, but respectful with our smaller, bossy dog (she’d once been dumped, too) and our domineering cats. In fact, Ben didn’t seem to realize he was technically homeless or discarded. Basking in affection, he seemed content just to belong somewhere.
Ben’s story and good nature touched people. In short order, he already had a name, a foster family, and friends working hard to find him a forever home. He even had a “starter” wardrobe: a nice collar, leash and ID tag – but still no city license or rabies tag. For those, he’d need a veterinary checkup of course. He was young and hardy, and (we hoped) affordable. The happy lug hopped into the car to ride to our then-new vet, Charlotte Street Animal Hospital. Predictably charmed, every member of the staff was also generous, bending over backwards trying to figure out a way to get Ben what he needed. Big, gentle Ben was now a fully vaccinated, ready-to-adopt good citizen.
Then Charlotte Street Animal Hospital took a giant step beyond compassion for just this one dog: they established a special fund for Ben and his “friends”: other found dogs and cats, as well as the occasional homeless but hopeful ferrets, bunnies, cockatoos and iguanas. With his broad grin and good looks, Ben was the ideal poster dog for the cause, though we weren’t yet making actual posters. Strangers – a surprising number - chipped in for rescues brought in by CSAH’s clients once they learned about the Friends of Ben. Animal people have big hearts, if not big wallets. The modest donations began to add up, helping to pay the bills, whether for injured strays or companions whose needs exceeded clients’ means. The Friends of Ben – the human part of the family, pet lovers, rescuers, and simply good neighbors - have helped save so many lives.
Since 1998, when our foster dog was first found, Charlotte Street Animal Hospital’s Ben's Friends Fund has cared for and saved so many of our own (and almost our own) companions. Whatever we are able to contribute to – quarters in a jar, rounding up a bill – helps to fund their care, and find them homes. Unlike most animals’ stories, Ben’s had a happy ending. A coworker asked about our foster dog, on behalf of her sister’s young family. The prospective adopters adored him, especially the young boy and girl. Based on Ben’s responses on neighborhood walks, we could tell that Ben “wanted children.” It was a match. Ben soon took up residence on a small farm outside Asheville. With a little help from his friends, Ben was indeed “someone’s” dog, and he was home -- forever.
Ann Weber is a newly retired UNCA professor of psychology. She and her family are “charter clients” of Charlotte Street Animal Hospital.
If you would like to make a monetary donation to the Ben's Friends Fund in loving memory of a friend, whether human or pet, please contact CSAH. There is always someone special out there that could benefit from your generosity.