Unwanted animals are sometimes dropped off in rural areas by callous owners. The car door swings open and the dog is gently pushed out, left behind; confused, alone, and sometimes he may run after the car that contained the only family he ever knew. Without food and water, abandonment can be an agonizing death sentence for a domestic animal. It is against the law to abandon an animal. It is a form of cruelty that most of us who love animals cannot comprehend.
The city of Victorville and the surrounding high desert area has become another such dumping ground for many unwanted pets. The shocking photo portrays one of that areas latest victims, a large dog now called Gentle Ben. This is a heart breaking story of human cruelty towards a family pet. But this is also the story of how a dog’s heart and spirit stay intact even after such callous and inhumane treatment. Integral to the story are the rescuers, in this case two amazing women who are part of the Southern California animal rescue network.
An abandoned animal will often stay in the same spot, looking hopefully at each approaching car. The dog believes that his owner may come back for him, and he’ll miss him if he moves elsewhere. This may have been the case with Gentle Ben.
A small Chihuahua was instrumental in the rescue of the dog now named Gentle Ben. The Chihuahua alerted his family to Ben’s presence when he began barking fiercely along the fence line of their property. The homeowners went to investigate and made the shocking discovery of a large emaciated dog laying just outside their yard. The animal looked like a skeleton with bones protruding through his worn coat. He was too weak from thirst and hunger to stand up. It was a touching moment when the tiny Chihuahua rushed over to comfort the much larger dog, and the two gently kissed each other, the larger animal responding gratefully sensing that help had finally arrived.
The family contacted Sherree Lutter, a well- known animal rescuer from Helping Paws. When she arrived, Sherree caught the pleading look in the frail dog’s eyes and recalls, “His spirit was broken and he was fading.” Sherree knew he must get immediate medical attention and contacted the Ark Animal Hospital. She also contacted Patricia Bonham, another animal angel who lives in the high desert area, for help networking and securing donations for what could be a costly veterinary bill. Pat is a personal friend of mine and a tireless rescuer of abandoned dogs as well as those facing euthanasia in shelters. Pat explains, “How can you say ‘No’ when an animal is in that condition? I’m involved because in this bad economy and with so many different cultures there are more animals in need than ever before.”
The treating vet believes Ben is either a Great Dane or a Mastiff mix. While he should weigh over 100 pounds, he is frightfully underweight at less than 50 pounds. There is a mass in his stomach which could be a tumor or other obstruction. The mass could be rocks…dogs without food will sometimes eat rocks or whatever they can find on the ground. In addition to starvation and dehydration, Gentle Ben’s white blood cell count is high so he will need a blood transfusion. More tests are needed.

What is truly amazing is that Ben wags his tail when humans approach. He has an innate sweet disposition, and the staff at the vet clinic has fallen in love with their new patient. He is now eating soft food, and showing a tremendous will to survive.
Ben’s photograph is on Facebook, along with updates on his medical condition. Pat Bonham’s recent posting gives us hope that Ben will make it, even though he is not out of the woods yet. “I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this sweet dog. He is still struggling and will have a long rehab if he is able to pull through. We had an ultrasound on him this morning and the news was better than we had suspected. There was no mass, his kidneys and liver looked ok…they did find an huge infected pus pocket near his prostrate…this is why his blood cell count was so high and we had to do a blood transfusion over the weekend…..He is on strong antibiotics and will remain at the vet for quite some time, and will need to gain more than 50 lbs to fill in his large frame. He has a good appetite but only wants soft food. Our vet bill is BIG and getting BIGGER.”
If you want to donate to help with his veterinary care, call Ark Animal Hospital at (760) 245-7300 and tell them it is for Gentle Ben’s fund. Ben’s heart is full of love and hope, but hope and prayers are needed that his physical body will recover as well. Next week’s column will include an update on Gentle Ben.


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