Barring the occasional pilfered sausage, fostering Benji the rescue dog has been a joy

Benji the rescue dog. Photo: BECKY RUSHTON.

Benji the rescue dog. Photo: BECKY RUSHTON. - Credit: Becky Rushton.

Visitors to the rescue centre often ask how many dogs I've taken home. Until January I would always laugh and say 'Just one, on the weekends'. But I've made a leap.

Benji, my much-loved collie friend and former weekend dog, is now my full-time foster. Having a dog in the house is a huge undertaking, as I always say to people who are keen on getting one themselves. But a few short weeks later I'm only left wondering why I didn't do this sooner.

Benji is a very special boy. He needs a little more understanding than your average dog, which is why he was kept as a long-term dog at the rescue.

A great benefit to working with rescue dogs is not only do you develop a much better understanding of them, but it allows you to take on dogs that you know wouldn't be able to go to regular homes.

Since taking him on, barring the occasional smashed lamp and pilfering of an unattended sausage, my acquisition of Benji into the home has been smooth sailing.

I know he's uncomfortable around strangers, so...I keep him away from strangers. It really is that simple. I've let him get to know a few choice people, which is good for him.

Any introduction is taken slowly, at a distance and with the golden rule of 'don't look at the dog'.

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After a couple of visits (and liberal use of a squeaky toy) Benji is asking for belly rubs from people that would previously have terrified him. It might sound strange to some people to be proud of a dog, but my heart is fit to burst.

My neighbour is one of the people to whom I've introduced Benji. We walk around the rear of her flat when coming back to mine from the green, and Benji has developed his own little routine - first, he runs along the row of garages, sniffing until he comes to mine.

He stops, turns to me and wags his tail, as if this is enough to make me abandon all plans and take him for a ride in the car that he loves so much (in his defence, this has worked before).

We continue on, and he pauses again by the path to my neighbour's flat, looking between it and me in turn. One day the pause was replaced by a full-on bolt to the door, and I obligingly rang the bell so he could say a quick hello to his new friend.

It turns out that my neighbour was going through a particularly hard time and was in need of some distraction.

She invited us both in, and what started as sympathetic chatter soon became howls of laughter as Benji entertained us with his scatty ways.

Trying to play with the doorstop, thinking it was a toy. Trying to goad Flynn the terrier into playing and running scared from a tiny growl. Investigating the parrot and darting back to me, ears pinned, when it whistled at him and he couldn't work out what was happening.

This small show of comic relief made such a huge difference, but if Benji hadn't changed tack and run to the door instead of passing by it as usual it wouldn't have happened.

Sure, since bringing him into my home I've forgotten what it's like to eat, type and bathe alone.

I've tripped over my black and white shadow more times than I can count. But Benji has made it his mission to ensure I'm never alone, and I can't thank him enough for that.