Gone since November, and thousands of miles away, Benny the dog is home in Modesto

Dog’s mystery trip ends with Modesto reunion

Benny went missing in Tennessee and was found months later in Michigan. He’s now back with his “mom” in Modesto.
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Benny went missing in Tennessee and was found months later in Michigan. He’s now back with his “mom” in Modesto.

Any worries Gabby McDaniel has over her dog Benny’s health were eased Wednesday morning.

The 30-month-old Labrador-pit bull mix, who got away from his Tennessee home about six months ago and was found just recently more than 600 miles from there, really tore it up at the Modesto Dog Park on Morris Avenue.

“He’s so skinny,” McDaniel said as Benny, with the empty park all to himself, sniffed around and occasionally broke into a slow run.

Within minutes, though, he had a few new friends and began to unleash all his energy. They played as dogs do, wrestling and gently biting one another. But Benny was determined to get frisky with his pals, too.

“He’s actually getting neutered tomorrow,” McDaniel said apologetically to her fellow pet owners, who seemed to shrug off the dogs-will-be-dogs action.

It was in November that Benny got away from the McDaniel home in Clarksville, Tennessee. Gabby’s husband, Trevor, was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, right on the states’ border. Trevor was being deployed to South Korea, and Gabby, a 2011 Modesto High grad, was moving back home to family while he’s away.

They were loading up their belongings, “and I’m pretty sure a mover left the side gate open, and that’s when he ran off,” McDaniel said. The couple didn’t immediately realize that Benny got out. When it dawned on them that they couldn’t hear him barking, they checked. But it was too late.

“All the military police there loved him, and they were helping to look,” she said. Neighbors were on alert, and McDaniel posted on Facebook that Benny was missing.

But the couple had to leave. “We were so sad,” McDaniel said. “Me and my husband cried and were like, ‘I can’t believe we’re leaving Benny out here by himself.’ ”

McDaniel feared the worst but didn’t give up hope. Recently searching “Benny the dog” on social media led her to a hit with Bay County Animal Control. They had a dog whose microchip showed he was named Benny and had been registered at Fort Campbell and in Clarksville.

Apparently, no one contacted the base to try to get current contact information for the couple, McDaniel said. When he got out, Benny had a collar on with dog tags and his chip number attached, but he had no collar when picked up as a stray in Michigan, she said.

When she learned Benny was in Michigan, McDaniel Googled Bay County. “And I’m like, ‘He’s literally right up next to Canada.’ I have literally no idea how he got there.” Bay City, Michigan, is about 625 miles north of Clarksville.

Benny was flown Tuesday night into San Francisco International Airport, where McDaniel was waiting to receive him. She said she cried to see him so thin, but he appears healthy. He has a couple of small scars to show for his mystery adventure, but that’s about it, McDaniel said.

And Benny’s reaction to seeing McDaniel? He pretty much ignored her, and peed all over the place at the airport, she said. Didn’t take him long to warm back up to her, though.

Trevor McDaniel isn’t due home until February, though there’s a slim chance he could get leave to attend his wife’s sister’s wedding in February.

Gabby made a video call to let him know Benny was back. He cried. “He was at work, so he said, ‘I have to step out.’ We call him Bean, and he was like ‘Aw, Bean!’ ”