Michigan family reunites with dog after yearlong separation

Thomas Garcia

Welcome posters and open arms are what await “Ceasar,” a Maltese dog who will be reunited with his owners in Michigan more than a year after he disappeared following a vehicle accident on Interstate 40 that resulted in the death of two family members.

Ceasar left Tucumcari on Tuesday morning en route to Amarillo, where he will be flown to Oklahoma City, Okla. From there he will travel by way of motor vehicle and plane to his destination in Clio, Mich.

Monica Benson, 30, who lost her husband and a daughter in the accident, said her four surviving children have been excited since they learned of Ceasar’s return. She said the children made welcome home posters for Ceasar.

“This has been the best news we have received in a year,” Benson said. “Words can not describe how much this means.”

The Benson family — including Ceasar — was traveling westbound lanes of I-40 near Tucumcari on June 15, 2010, when their 2001 Chevrolet mini-van driven overturned.

Gary and Emily Benson died from injuries in the accident.

Then 18-month old son Benjamin was placed in an Intensive Care Unit at an Amarillo hospital.

“While Benjamin was in the ICU, we placed picture of him and Ceasar on the walls.” Monica Benson said. “When he woke up he would point at the pictures and say Ceasar.”

Benson said the family returned to the site of the accident and tried to find Ceasar.

“It has been so hard,” Monica Benson said. “There are pictures all over the house and Benjamin would point at them and ask “where’s Ceasar?”

On Friday, Christina Fleming, a member of the Tucumcari Animal Rescue Group, found Ceasar at the Tucumcari animal shelter.

Fleming said she was at the shelter looking for the weekly rescues eligible for adoption. She said seven dogs were taken to the veterinarian office where they were scanned or microchips.

“There was a chip implanted in a cute little Maltese we had named “Prince Harry,” Fleming said. “I called the chip contact and was given a phone number for a woman in Michigan.”

Fleming said she called the number, which was disconnected, but something didn’t seem right. She said she went online and tried to find the person the chip was registered to and found an online article about the family that owned the dog being in a serious car accident near Tucumcari on I-40.

“I found the obituary and contacted the funeral home in Michigan,” Fleming said. “A woman named Rhonda helped me to get in contact with Ceasar’s owners.”

Wilson’s efforts eventually put Benson and Fleming into contact and the efforts to find Ceasar a ride home began.

“I told the kids that Ceasar would be home in a week,” Monica Benson said. “I did not want them to think he was going to be here tomorrow.”