Friday, October 10, 2003

Nick works security, spreads joy, flosses


It's really hard to find something bad about the Bennetts' remarkable dog

By John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer


Everyone has a story worth telling. At least, that's the theory. To test it, Tempo is throwing darts at the phone book. When a dart hits a name, a reporter dials the phone number and asks if someone in the home will be interviewed.


It's hard to find fault with 11 1/2-year-old Nick Bennett.

Consider: He not only flosses regularly, he enjoys it. Plus, he sits in the front pew at church. He visits retirement homes, where he brightens the residents' days. And, he looks after his young friend, Priscilla.

As for his habit of going spastic every time the doorbell rings, well, that's forgivable. To Nick, it's a signal that someone's invading his turf.

"Schnauzers are excellent guard dogs," says Jerry Bennett.

Jerry and his wife, Pat, both pharmacists, are sitting in their New Burlington home discussing Nick, whose bushy eyebrows twitch when he knows he's being talked about.

[IMAGE] Jerry and Pat Bennett rescued their two schnauzers, Nick and Priscilla.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
He came into their lives 10 years ago this month; they've had Priscilla, another miniature schnauzer, since March.

"Whenever we get ready to brush our teeth," Jerry is saying, "Nick hears that door opening and he comes running ..."

"... to get his teeth flossed," Pat says.

When you have been married 32 years, as the Bennetts have, you are allowed to finish each other's sentences.

"We pull out the floss, he goes right for it," Jerry says. "Bang, he's content."

Jerry is 58, and will retire in a few months from the University of Cincinnati; Pat, 65, also taught at UC and is already retired.

They never had children. The time just never seemed right.

"We really love kids," Jerry says. "But I think we made the right decision for us."

Nick was adopted

The decision to get a dog wasn't one they made lightly, either.

SCHNAUZER RESCUE
One of Jerry and Pat Bennett's dogs came from Schnauzer Friends for Rescue and Adoption.

Volunteers for the non-profit, Cincinnati-based group match orphaned miniature schnauzers with adoptive homes. Most of the dogs are males between ages 3 and 5, and many are housebroken. All have been spayed or neutered and have up-to-date shots. An adoption fee helps cover the cost of basic care and veterinary services.

Information is available online.

They wanted to be sure they'd have time to devote to a pet.

A friend who rescues dogs from animal shelters told them about Nick, whose owner was letting him run loose. Neighbors didn't appreciate it.

"He'd been in the pound three times in 10 days," Pat says. "And his bail went up each time."

Nick's owner agreed to put him up for adoption. Enter the Bennetts.

They have a photo of Nick, taken soon after they got him. He wasn't much to look at: scrawny with a coat that had never been groomed. But what stand out are his eyes. They look sad.

"Dogs have emotions, just like we do," Jerry says.

Nick, of course, didn't know he'd hit the canine jackpot. So he ran away. Twice.

These days, though, Nick is happy and well versed in the rhythms of life in the Bennett household.

Such as flossing. Nick used to charge into the bathroom and watch the Bennetts floss. One day, they decided to let him try it.

Pat demonstrates. She holds the string - waxed or unwaxed, Nick doesn't care, but please make it mint - and the schnauzer goes at it.

"Even our dentist came to see it," Pat says. "He couldn't believe it."

Pat, who teaches weaving at Twin Towers retirement community in College Hill, often takes Nick along.

"If I show up without the dog," she says, "I get all kinds of grief. From the minute we get out of the car, if there's anybody sitting on the porch or walking on the sidewalk, they want to see Nick. They pet him, and they usually tell me about a pet they had, and how much they loved it."

He loves attention

Nick loves the attention. In fact, the only time he acts up is if someone walks in a room and doesn't acknowledge him.

Pat is also active in her church's altar guild.

So, when it's her turn to volunteer, she takes Nick, who sits quietly in the front pew. Priscilla sometimes comes along, too. Like Nick, she was rescued from a shelter.

"They've brought a lot of enjoyment to our lives," says Pat, who's only half joking when she adds, "These are the kids I never had."

E-mail jjohnston@enquirer.com




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