Our dog Benji, who had a book named after him even if it wasn’t about him, died on Friday night.

Six weeks shy of his 9th birthday and two weeks after his spleen had been removed and he’d been diagnosed with cancer of the blood. He was curled up in his basket when we went to bed, and he was still in that position when Jacs went down to put the kettle on in the morning. One soft ear was over the side, as it usually was, his tail protruding at the other end.

Pre-op he was given maybe years, post biopsy he was given a definitive mean survival of eighty-six days. On Thursday we were revised to weeks, sometime 36 hours later he was gone. Time wise the operation wasn’t a great investment, we wouldn’t have it any other way though. The option of possibly more time was one we were always going to take.

He came to us on Christmas Day 2011. That wasn’t a great year for me, both my parents died and I’d had surgery myself. We only dropped in to see Duncan to borrow a table tennis ball to take to the cousins. “Come in” he said “I’ve got something to show you”.

I said I couldn’t, we were already late, we were all in the car. He insisted, I fetched the family. The “kids” were 19 and 16. “Oh please” they pleaded and promised all manner of attention, walks, training and cleaning up. By that afternoon he was installed at home along with Tui. Tom had most to say about his name; Benji Marshall Carter.

His mum was half Huntaway, half Lab. His dad was half Springer, half Lab. He was the only survivor from a litter of eleven, the rest had died or been put down as a result of cleft palate. We always suspected his intensity came from that. If we did him the indignity of closing the front door he sat and stared at it until it was opened. Rarely did he take the option of the open gate. He was a devoted, happy, sociable, exuberant dog.

The “kids” moved away, Tom to the UK and Lulu off to university in Sydney. Tom came home, Lulu moved to London.

He had a home away from home down on the South Island. Great friends took him in when we were away on extended trips and he became a member of their family too. Somehow he charmed his way into the position of house dog as well as farm dog.

I let Simon know about his death and he said that he’d been “quite a successful cattle and yard dog”. Praise like that might be faint in other parts of the world, but in North Canterbury that’s like winning dog of the year at Crufts.

He had a great mate down there called Doug, Simon also said Benji taught him some tricks that he’d rather he hadn’t. On the hill country farm he once jumped off the farm bike to chase a couple of hares and did a cartoon tumble roll down a hundred meter slope. On Riversdale beach in winter he surprised a much larger seal and got bitten on his head, the seal mistaking his exuberance for aggression.

We’ve made the necessary phone call to Lulu in London to let her know. We’d already told her what was happening but when she left last year she was entitled to the supposition that she’d see him again.

Tom and I buried him on Sunday at the bottom of the garden, beside his old mate Tui.

Jacs and I walked this morning and on returning I almost went to the laundry to get a bowl of food for him. If a fern moves in the wind we think he’s outside. When we pull up in the car we expect to see his nose through the gate, or his whole head pop out beside the letter box like it did when his favourite postie delivered a bill for us and a treat for him.

We loved him and he was loved by almost everyone and every dog, not all of course. In Wellington his best mate was probably Colin, Tahu was another, Jamie the Corgi next door and his old mate Coco in the Wairarapa, Bridgey in Auckland too. His cousins were Chester, Daisy and Archie. In the South Island he and Doug were close and human wise there needs to be a shout out to his second family, the Batchelors, especially Henry and Simon.

I’ve written before about dogs and their lifespan. It’s a worry. In canine years Benji was pretty much the same age as I am now.


Video from the home schooling lockdown series


The book Our Dog Benji

Previous dog posts





Pete Carter is the author of This is Us. Due out in June 2020 it will be published by Exisle and tells the story of more than 200 New Zealanders in words and pictures. The book is really a portrait of the nation and how it is made up. Pete wrote Our Dog Benji a children’s book illustrated by his nephew, published by EK in 2017. He is also the author of two books of poetry. He has had magazine articles published and poetry in anthologies. As a photographer he has had two solo exhibitions and work included in group exhibitions in NZ and overseas and has sold work to and been commissioned by corporate clients.

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