At one or two years old, Benjamin is still a baby— his paws seem too big for his body, and he has a signature “goofy puppy run.” Benjamin is also homeless. He’s spent most of his life in a kennel at the Hempstead Town Animal Shelter in Long Island, New York.
Benjamin loves playing fetch so much that just the other day, when shelter volunteer Alexis Puccio took him for a walk, he plopped right down outside the play yard and begged to go inside. He looked up at her until she opened the door. “He’s like a little kid,” Alexis says.
Benjamin has also been working with Al, a volunteer trainer at the shelter, and he’s learned all his commands. His favorite, Alexis says, is “down.” “He knows ‘down’ like like there’s no tomorrow,” she laughs. “Benny’s a very trainable pup,” Al adds, “He has so much potential.”
This is the side of Benjamin most people see. But when his volunteers aren’t there, Benjamin’s life is different.
In fact, staff member Melissa Fogarty tells me, he spends most of the day hiding in the back of his kennel. He’s a shy and sensitive soul, and when she cleans his cage in the morning, Melissa has to gently coax him to get off of his blanket. His tail is tucked between his legs, and he makes his body small and low to the ground.
When Alexis puts Benjamin back into his kennel after their walks, he says goodbye twice. First, she tucks him into the back, and then he runs up to the front so she can give him one last treat before she leaves. He gives her a look that says, “I promise I’ll be good until you come back.”
Then, after everyone has gone, Benjamin hides once more. Benjamin came in with his brother Barney, who was quickly adopted. That was almost a year ago. Melissa thinks the hiding might be the reason Benjamin hasn’t found a home. His coat is also black, and black dogs are frequently overlooked. No one notices Benjamin.
But passersby don’t get to see who Benjamin is when he is outside. They don’t get to see him play, and they don’t realize is the shy dog in the back of his cage is also the silly puppy who flops to the ground outside the play yard until he’s allowed inside.
Sometimes, when Melissa cleans his cage, she can see what he’d be like in a real home. “When we start talking to him, he starts to wiggle and slowly come towards us.” He untucks his tail.
“Benjamin is growing up inside a shelter,” Alexis says, “And no dog should have to grow up inside a shelter.”
If Benjamin finds an adopter, Alexis will sponsor his adoption. That’s how special this puppy is. “If he went home,” Alexis says, “I would cry for days with happiness.”
If you’re interested in meeting Benjamin, please reach out to the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter at (516) 785-5220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Find his details here, and follow the shelter itself on Facebook.
Header images via Cynthia Raven and Melissa Fogarty / Hempstead Town Animal Shelter