Gentle Ben


The shelter deemed the dog a danger. All he wanted was a lap to sit on.

By KL Snyder  |  Photography by Kelvin Andow


Although Ben had some people convinced he was ferocious, the 8-month-old puppy with the Pit-Bull-of-the-Baskervilles reputation didn’t fool Nancy Back.

She first saw Ben in February 2016 in a video online. He was crouched way back in his kennel at a Twin Cities high-kill shelter.

“He looked scared, not vicious,” Nancy says. Immediately she recognized “what a special dog he is.” When she learned he was scheduled for euthanasia, she and her husband, Kelvin, longtime fosterers of homeless dogs, decided to foster Ben—“if he was friendly.”

What are we getting into?

Shelter staff credited Ben with NO friendliness and made picking him up a drama.

“They wouldn’t release him unless he was anaesthetized,” Nancy says. “Even then, they wouldn’t even let us take him out of their crate and put him into ours. I was thinking, What are we getting in to?”

Despite their newfound qualms, Nancy and Kelvin sprang groggy Ben, crate and all, from the shelter and brought him home and braced themselves. But Ben made no trouble.

“He was really cautious at first,” Nancy says. “We were, too.” He refused to sit beside his new people, but not for long. “By that night he was better.”

Ben made friends with the other dogs in the house and soon assumed his spot on Nancy’s lap. Or Kelvin’s. Either lap was fine. “He loves to sit on laps,” Nancy says. And at 47 pounds, he’s a lapful.

Still, 47 pounds is small for an American Staffordshire Terrier-Labrador mix, which he’s alleged to be. Nancy sees no Lab. “I think he’s mixed with Beagle,” she says. “He’s short.”

Bye, Ben

During his eight foster months, Ben played with other dogs, visited the dog park, learned to fetch (except for the giving-the-ball-back-every-time part), played with his toys and nestled on laps. “He’s a little snuggler,” Nancy says.

Several families asked to adopt the pup, but because quick movements frighten him, Nancy and Kelvin decided he shouldn’t live in a home with small children.

“We thought he was going to be ours,” says Nancy. Then in October, a couple who seemed perfect applied. “I wanted to keep him, but Kelvin said, ‘We can’t keep all the fosters.’”

So off went Ben. “That was really hard,” Nancy says.

A few weeks later though, Ben’s adopters broke up. The man, too busy to take proper care of Ben, called to ask if Kelvin and Nancy would take the dog back.

Would they? They retrieved Ben (who required no anaesthesia) the next day. “This time,” Nancy told Kelvin, “we’re keeping him.”

Chunky Wiggle Butt

“I think that dogs that are rescued love you more and appreciate you and the good home you give them,” she says. “Ben is a very happy dog now.” His ever-wagging tail has earned him the nickname Chunky Wiggle Butt. “He still likes to sit in our laps, and when he sleeps, he wants his head on Kelvin’s head.”

Freelance writer KL Snyder believes as Nancy does that rescue dogs love you more.