Benjamin the Yorkie is dead.

Bob Fischbach found him about 7 Wednesday morning. Fischbach had spent $1,500 in lost-dog advertisements and fliers since Benjamin disappeared from his Ferndale home on March10.

Fischbach was about to spend another $1,500 in advertisements to find this 3 1/2-year-old Yorkshire terrier that was more than a pet. More of a companion, a child even. There were formal portraits. Therewas a blanket-lined desk drawer in Fischbach's office where Benjaminslept.

Fischbach's wife Sonja noticed that Benjamin's 3 1/2-year-old sister, Nina, had been spending an unusual amount of time hangingaround the backyard swimming pool. On Tuesday night, she mentioned this to her husband. Perhaps he should check the pool.

The pool? Fischbach said the covered pool was checked soon after he noticed that one of their four Yorkshire terriers was missing. That was shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday, March 10. The Fischbachs had been hosts for a wedding shower that day at their home in Maple Glen Estates.

Fischbach has been getting up early every day since that Sunday,driving around the neighborhood looking for Ben. He's been checking with several local Humane Societies. He's been placing advertisements. He's been worrying. He's been crying.

"When you and the wife don't have children, the only children you end up having are animals," the 43-year-oldsaid.

On Wednesday morning he awoke around 7 and went to the backyard. He lifted the vinyl cover of the above-ground pool and knew that the search was over.

"It's not like we don't watch over him," Fischbach said yesterday. "How it ever happened, God only knows."

He doesn't figure on buying another dog. "If we get a dog it'd have tobe through Nina," Fischbach said. He said the two have "some look-alike features."

Ben will be buried today in the Bonheur Pet Cemetery in Howard County next to the Fischbach's fox terrier, Tiny, and their three cats, Dumplin, Toby and Lisa. In all, Fischbach said he has 16 graves reserved at Bonheur, side by side.

The other graves are marked with the pet's name, and the motto, "Our kids." Ben's epitaph is yet to be composed.

"I just don't know," said Fischbach. "That has to be something very special. He was very special to us."

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