An abandoned stray wandering the back streets of Pass Christian, Miss., she ultimately found shelter at the Humane Society of South Mississippi in Gulfport.
It was there, after a three-month nationwide search by Camp, that her life dramatically changed.
"The original Benji, whose real name was Higgins, was rescued from the Burbank Animal Shelter," Camp said at Saturday's event.
"The American Humane Assn. reported that the adoption of the original Benji from the Burbank Shelter was directly responsible for the adoption of more than 1 million dogs nationwide. That's why I wanted to find the new Benji in a shelter."
Introduced by Joan Cappocchi, Camp, with Benji at his side and his wife, Kathleen, in the front row, greeted the assemblage of young people, as well as those who were young at heart, by expounding on the virtues of reading. Then, taking his own advice, he read a chapter from his book, "Benji & Me" (Mulberry Square Productions Inc., 2000). Selecting a chapter titled "Raison D'etre," Camp twice had to regain his composure as he relayed the story of being on a promotional tour with Benji and meeting a shy Parisian boy who reminded him of himself as a young boy growing up in Little Rock, Ark.
Over the following hour, Camp held his audience captive as he spoke of the four dogs that have played the role of Benji since 1973.
Saying that all of his Benji films have been about three things — love, hope and the constant pursuit of a goal, Camp also spoke of the man who trained the first three Benjis, Frank Inn, and demonstrated some of the training techniques he learned from Inn based on a system of vocabulary and compassion.