Benson, our first Chocolate Labrador puppy was born on February 10th 2000 and carried on to take over our lives.  Our 'pretend' family life had started! 

First Visit to the Breeder

We first visited the breeder near Southampton three-and-a-half weeks after Benson was born.   We had done a lot of research into different breeds and breeders beforehand, and had had some major building work done on the house in preparation for his arrival.

Although we had already decided on his name, we did not on this visit know which of the two chocolate male puppies would end up with us; we could have taken both.  In fact, we fell in love with the whole litter!

We have always thought about getting two dogs, but were strongly advised by friends to get them one at a time - something to do with establishing a hierarchy in the home (with us hopefully at the top).

But Which One is Benson? Is it this one? Or is it this one?
In the breeder's kitchen with both candidates Phil in the breeder's kitchen with one of the male pups Phil in the breeder's kitchen with one of the male pups
Steve in the breeder's kitchen with both the male pups
Grandma (left) with Benson's mother Rosie Benson's (absent) father Tosh Tosh actually lives in Leicestershire - we were given these pictures
The whole litter (with Benson at the bottom)

Second Visit to the Breeder

Two weeks later, on our arrival for the second visit to the breeder, we were presented with a five-and-a-half week old 'Benson'.  Either the breeder had made their own decision, or another customer had got in first.  Whichever, the decision allowed us to start bonding with our soon-to-be new charge.

Benson was noticeably bigger than the other puppies, with a no-nonsense attitude which allowed him to barge in front of his brothers and sisters for the food on offer.  Although not a bully, Benson knew what he wanted and went for it.  An omen for things to come?

  The real Benson Not one for the shadows! He won't be able to do this for long!
Strutting his stuff It's this one! Proud Father
Can't we take him now? What a cutie Family Portrait
Off with their heads!    

Back Home

Three weeks later, our final visit to Southampton to pick up Benson and bring him home.  He was now eight-and-a-half weeks old (the photos on the right were taken at about ten weeks).   One of favourite places Not too flattering, this one  

At Fifteen Weeks

We're beginning to realise what a monster Benson's going to turn out.  But he's (more or less) housetrained, our home has (more or less) survived, and we are 100% in love with him (most of the time!)   Fifteen Weeks (and still growing!) Monster! A bit on the dark side, this one

At Nineteen Weeks

The photos on the left were taken in Clissold Park, where Benson gets taken for his walk most nights.  And as you can see, he's still growing...   He won't have to kneel down soon! And a bit heavier than he was On the lookout for trouble
It's not easy to get him to stay still Look at me, will you? It takes two arms now

At Twenty Weeks - Mardi Gras!

We took Benson to his first gay Mardi Gras festival, in nearby Finsbury Park.  There we bumped into Carmen, a good friend of ours who was taking Benson for a walk most lunchtimes.  The last photos in the middle were taken by her in Abney Park Cemetary, and include two kids she looks after.

Benson also got his passport!  He had to have a microchip implanted to get it.

Family Portrait at Mardi Gras Benson and kids at Abney Park Cemetary Benson's Passport!
Carmen at Mardi Gras Benson and kids at Abney Park Cemetary

At Twenty Two Weeks - Benson on Holiday

Benson has been on his first holiday!  We hired a cottage near Land's End in Cornwall for a week.  It was the first time he'd slept away from home but he settled in immediately, and ran wild in the large grassy garden (he's used to paving slabs).

The weather wasn't great, but at least the rain held off.  We visited Land's End itself the first day, but were less than enamoured with the rampant commercialism we found.   The surrounding area however - and indeed all of the western part of Cornwall we saw - contained some spectacular and rugged scenery.

But the highlight for Benson came the next day.  The cottage was within walking distance of a wonderful 'dog-friendly' and uncrowded beach.  We had to negotiate a lot of stairs which had been cut into the cliff, but when we finally got down there Benson was in doggy heaven!   He'd never seen so much sand before, and raced around on it for a mad few minutes.   He then got to try out his digging skills (which he had, unfortunately, honed in our garden back home), aided by Phil.  He was, perhaps wisely given the temperature of it, a little more suspicious of the Atlantic Ocean!

We visited other beaches during the week, including one overlooking St. Michael's Mount, and another at Porthcurno (where the colour of the water made you think you were in Greece rather than the UK).   Unfortunately, dogs were banned from this one, so all we could do was gaze down from above.  During the week, we also visited the resort of St. Ives as well as the gardens of the Trevarno estate, where Benson had to be held back from attacking some peacocks which were strolling around the grounds.

Too soon the holiday was over, and Benson reluctantly got back into the car for what turned out to be an eight hour drive home.  He seems happy enough to be back though, and has resumed his regular lifestyle.

Furnace Cottage and its Garden A Joyful Puppy Making Himself at Home in the Cottage
In Furnace Cottage With Steve at Land's End With Phil at Land's End
Land's End Land's End Benson's Beach!
Don't Go Near the Water! Running Round his Beach A Failed Pose
Salty Sea Dog! So Much to Explore Phil and Benson Digging
St. Michael's Mount By Pendeen Lighthouse Pendeen Lighthouse
Porthcurno Beach (Sorry, Benson) Above Porthcurno Beach A Peacock at Trevarno
We Had to Rein Benson Back Back Home Back Home

At Six Months - A Prodigy

We started to take Benson to obedience classes in Finsbury Park on Sunday mornings, and discovered that we may be harbouring a canine prodigy!   After only one lesson, he was awarded his Kennel Club Good Citizen Bronze award!  We never however considered 'hot-housing' him.  In fact, he decided that there was no more to learn; and it was such a drag getting up on Sunday mornings...!   Benson's Kennel Club Bronze Award Benson's Kennel Club Bronze Rosette  

At Seven Months

Benson's Breeders, Pearl and Riz, came up from Southampton to present us with his official pedigree and to check on his progress.  We all went for a walk in Clissold Park to show them that, while he may be an urban dog, he gets plenty of exercise in green spaces.  We must have passed the test, as he is now officially ours!   Walking in the Park, with Benson's Breeders Pearl, Riz and Benson Benson's Pedigree from the Breeders
Walking in the Park, with Benson's Breeders Pearl, Riz and Benson Benson's Kennel Club Pedigree

At Eight Months

We've certainly got to visit a lot of North London's parks since getting Benson!  The previous Sunday had seen us romping across Hampstead Heath, but this weekend it was Alexandra Palace.   Afterwards we stopped off for lunch in nearby Crouch End where Benson (as usual) found a friend.   Steve & Benson in Front of "Ally Pally" Phil & Benson in Alexandra Park Benson & Friend in Crouch End

Ten Months - Benson's First Xmas

Benson has experienced his first Xmas!  Obviously he appreciated the presents, and was intrigued by the snow which landed seasonably a few days later.  He was less keen however on the firework display we had for New Year.

The festivities were marred a little by Benson's sporadic periods of limping.  He was seen three times by a top canine orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal Veterinary College, and we were warned that an operation may be necessary on his elbows to deal with some growing pains.  And he will almost certainly have some problems with arthritus later on.

  Benson at Xmas (A bit fuzzy) Family Xmas Portrait (also a bit fuzzy) So What's this Snow Business About, then?
Benson Was Probably Still Hiding When This Was Taken!
X-Ray of One of the Problem Elbows A Bit Under the Weather I'm Not Well!

Eleven Months

January is such a come-down, so what better for a recovering puppy than a weekend at the beach?   So, in the space of an hour (literally!) one Friday afternoon, a cottage was hired in Dorset and we were packed and on our way.

The cottage was situated on an estate bordering Poole Harbour, which we explored during a long crisp walk on Saturday morning.  In the afternoon we visited the beautiful Lulworth Cove.  Before heading back on Sunday we took Benson for a run on the wide sands of nearby Studland Bay and in the adjacent dunes, where he quickly took up from where he had left off in Cornwall last Summer.

  Walking through the Woods from the Cottage to Poole Harbour Phil & Benson walking to Poole Harbour Phil & Benson Looking Across Poole Harbour
Benson at Poole Harbour Benson at Poole Harbour
The Indignity!  Fancy Making Me Pose Like This! Steve and Benson at Lulworth Cove Steve and Benson at Lulworth Cove
Steve and Benson at Studland Bay Steve and Benson in the Dunes at Studland Bay Steve and Benson in the Dunes at Studland Bay

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