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Victor Benoun

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Last week Fergus and Casper were invited to attend a Christmas party for burn victims and survivors that was sponsored by USC burn ward. As you know Fergus is also a burn victim having been doused with some chemical all over his back. My wife and I also attended as neither Fergus nor Casper have passed their drivers test, though they do show steady improvement.

What we witnessed was one of the most extraordinary and touching events in our lives. Some of the most appreciative, grateful people we have ever met were gathered together as family. Some were small children and others were young adults, and adults who experienced a horrific tragedy in their lives. The one thing they had in common is that they had all experienced fire or burns to their body.

Both children and adults alike were drawn to Fergus and Casper, and my two dogs loved every second of it. They loved being petted and adored and gave back every ounce of love they could to the people they met. And the reason was simple: every single one of them, every person there was so upbeat and happy and excited to be with family and friends and to celebrate the holidays and the fact that they are alive. They made a choice that their experience no matter how traumatic would not define them nor keep them down.

I thought Fergus had quite a bit in common with them. From the first time we met, he was nothing but love and affection. Whatever befell him was in the past and was left there; in the past. As a result of adopting and bringing him home we have met the most incredible people.

Our goal for 2016 is to have both Fergus and Casper certified as therapy dogs so they can visit hospitals and retirement homes, as their way of giving back (and our way as well). We can all hardly wait for the New Year. On behalf of Fergus and Casper, have a wonderful holiday. Here are a few pictures from the event.

It’s been an interesting year. I know it’s not over yet, but we are certainly in the twilight of 2015. I find myself asking questions, looking for answers and trying to connect the dots as never before. Maybe it’s because I have a milestone birthday coming up and I’m trying to make sense of it all, and want to make sure I contribute to making the world a better place in some way.

This year has brought some wonderful surprises and some heartbreaking losses. I have lost a few friends this year that were way too young but will be in my thoughts forever. I have also made new acquaintances, taken on challenges and became an advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves. At times I have lost my own way, and then found it again, and then lost myself once more. Maybe that’s what happens as you grow older; because the meaning of it all, life, becomes more important. I know that age is just a number, and whatever meaning I put towards it is a self-imposed limitation, but it’s made me more aware of what I need to do and want to do.

What about you? What has 2015 been like for you? What challenges have you faced, what surprises have you enjoyed and what crisis has set you back? If you want to share I will be happy to talk about it with you.

In my quest for answers I stumbled across a video which has really captured my attention, in fact I watch it every day and some times more than once a day. I feel like it has really helped me focus on what is important, on what I want to accomplish and how I want to feel. I know it is just a video but I wanted to share it with you in case you are experiencing the same emotions. I hope you enjoy it and if you have time, let me know what you think.

I can be a little over the top sometimes. I know it. I’m the guy you talk about behind his back (and sometimes, right in front of) because I treat my dogs like family and will go on and on about them. If you invite me over to your house for dinner and you have a dog, you will probably find me on the floor playing ball with him. My dogs get on the furniture, sleep on the bed, go out to dinner and get dressed up on Halloween. (They do not get candy, though).

My doggie friends over the last 35 years include Murphy, Yogi, Morgan, Sammy and Casper. I rescued both Sammy and Casper; Casper was 5 when he came home to us and Casper was 2 ½. On August 22, Sammy at the age of 13 ½ put his head down, and went to sleep. The emptiness, the pain and the void that I felt in my life was overwhelming. Every time I have lost a pet it was the same. Casper, now 9 ½ expressed a sadness I had never seen in one of my dogs before at the loss of Sammy. Most of my friends are dog people, and they get it because they have experienced the same feeling with their own pets. (My other friends who aren’t dog people think I’m crazy…I’m okay with that).

I’ve learned many lessons from my dogs over the years; persistence, honesty, love, street smarts, and compassion to name but a few. I even wrote a book about it, but don’t worry, you don’t have to run out and buy it, it was never published. That’s okay, it was more for me anyway and really helped me understand my relationship with my dogs and why they mean so much to me.

The most recent lesson I learned was about forgiveness and even when life doesn’t make sense you still move forward. Here’s what I mean: shortly before Sammy died I saw a clip on the news about a Golden Retriever named Fergus (he was named Fergus because it means strength.) He was found wandering the streets and someone deliberately poured battery acid down his back. He was turned into a local shelter and eventually brought to a vet in Los Angeles and was treated for his burns and for malnutrition.

The fact that someone would treat an animal or anyone this way was horrifying. From what little I knew the dog would need a great deal of treatment and probably would have a lot of trust issues before he would ever be able to be socialized.

At the time, I did not connect the dots. Sammy’s passing somehow opened a door for Fergus to come home to us, to be rescued and adopted. My wife filled out the application and paperwork, but I told her not to get her hopes up. There were hundreds of applications for him from all over the world; Canada, Australia, France, the United Kingdom to name a few. Somehow, and I don’t know how, we were chosen to be Fergus’ new family. Maybe Sammy helped orchestrate it.

Here’s what I learned when I first met Fergus; what a kind, loving dog. He didn’t have any trust issues, he loved people, and wanted to be loved. He didn’t allow the horrible experience of being mistreated and abused turn him into something he wasn’t. I know we all have choices and he made his, and it was to live a life of love. When Fergus meets you he will bury his head in your arms and chest and give you the sweetest kiss.

When we brought him home, you could feel his joy, to be part of a family. He and Casper have bonded and they play. NBC News and reporter Robert Kovacik was there to document his homecoming and People Magazine on line also wrote about it, as did other media outlets. I posted a video of Fergus and Casper playing together on Fergus’ Facebook page and it has nearly 6,000 views. He has regards from all over the world. We invite you to join us on his page, Fergus Golden Retriever Survivor. If you Google him, you will find several thousand entries.

The world is watching and Fergus lives his life like nothing is any big deal. He has left his old life behind and moved forward living in the present. He loves to play, loves Casper, loves to go out and see people, and loves to eat (boy can that dog eat! And it’s gratifies me so much to see it).

Fergus is a very social animal and will soon be helping others. He has a little healing to do of his own, but we are shortly going to have he and Casper certified as therapy dogs so they can visit children’s hospitals and burn wards and retirement homes so he can help others smile and ease their pain.

The outpouring of love and support has been nothing short of overwhelming. Thank you to everyone. And thank you to Fergus and Casper. I am so excited about this new chapter and to see what lessons I can learn.