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    The Beginning of Benji

    Gooooood Morning everyone! Today, I want to get a little deeper than usual. We’ve been having these little chats for a while now and I feel like it’s time I told you about my past. I’ll warn ya, this one is a little sad, but like all good stories – there is a happy ending! I wasn’t always the good listenin’ Benji you’ve all come to know (and love). I have worked hard to get to where I am today, but I wasn’t able to do it on my own.

    My journey began in West Virginia. As a pup growing up, I started in a bad place. I don’t remember a lot from those distant times. There was a lot of yelling and it was always dirty. The people that I grew up with never gave me treats and kicked me off the porch stairs sometimes. It would be a long time before I would be comfortable with heights again. I didn’t stay there very long, but those early months made a huge impact on me.

    From there, I was taken to Salfid Rescue, where things were overwhelming and uncertain. Some dogs around the kennels would bark on and on about this place they’ve heard of. They called it a ‘forever home.’ It was fabled that some dogs got carried away to places where treats flowed freely and hands were only used for petting, never swatting. Some dogs believed whole-heartedly, but others had given up hope long ago.You could tell when strangers walked through, some would yap and bounce up and down while others moped in the back corners. I was a moper who thought it was all just a fairytale.

    I bounced from the rescue to a foster home on a farm with four other doggos and a bunch of kitties running around. There were open fields and lots of freedom to run. I played well with my other furry roommates, but I was still doubtful. Something this good couldn’t last forever. There had to be a catch.

    Well, at this point the catch was already forming. A few hundreds of miles away, there was a woman sitting behind a computer screen. She was surfing the web for a furry companion, entering a search query that would change both of our lives. Minimum age was one-year old, had to be both pet and child friendly, and more. My huge round eyes were the only ones that checked all the boxes. That woman, who unbeknownst to me would become my ‘forever Mom,’ was Annalisa.

    Annalisa arrived with her partner and a small human in a sparkly tutu out for an initial visit in the afternoon. All of my furry roommates were bounding around and barking, but I stayed cool and collected. I sat on my haunches and eyed them curiously. They eyed me back and talked with our nice caretaker. After some brief discussion, it was agreed that I should go with them for a two-week trial run. The family looked just as surprised as I did that I was going with them. River, said small human in tutu, was overjoyed and bubbling with excitement. This was probably the biggest step in my journey.

    On the ride home we had to stop at the store for some much-needed supplies (again, we were all surprised). John and River went inside to pick out my doggy essentials, which left Annalisa and I alone in the car. We stared into each other’s eyes and I felt a spark. That’s when I heard it, my name in her sweet voice, “Benji.” It was a moment of hope, of ‘Could this be it? The forever home?’ It was meant to be. I found the person that I could finally trust…and the rest is history as they say.

    Fast forward to present day. In the therapy room, I am known as Benji, Therapy Doggo Extraordinaire! My Mom inspires me to follow her example in the work that we do together. When we sat together in that parking lot all those years ago, we had a conversation. It was one of those silent conversations when eyes connect. I was asking for help and she answered with an extended paw. I want to extend my paw out to those that may need a floppy ear to bend, and encourage anyone who’s going through it to reach out to someone. We often don’t get the help we need simply because we don’t ask.

    I wouldn’t be this happy pup had I not asked for a paw. I certainly wouldn’t be jammin’ out to Country Roads and reminiscing about West Virginia mountains with my Mom. (Turns out she went to school there!)

    So take it from this ‘ol pup. If you need help, just ask.

    Oh wow! I seem to have rambled on more than I thought. I won’t keep you any longer! It’s been swell hangin’ with ya and I hope to see ya around the water bowl. Bark at ya later folks!

    Your Trustworthy Pup,



    P.S. Want more pawsome self-care tips? Go to and get your FREE self-care guide, packed with mindful journaling prompts and daily progress logs, inspired by Benji himself! You won’t be disappointed! It’s never too late to put yourself first.

    Written by Mark A. Smithson

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