Benji begone. There's a new wag in Hollywood -- Jerry Lee, who's got this year's Patsy (dogdom's Oscar) collared with his bow-wowser of a performance opposite Jim Belushi in "K-9." Belushi, as vice cop Thomas Dooley, is such a cockamamie guy, nobody at LAPD wants to ride in his squad car. After he barely escapes a hit commissioned by the local drug cartel, Dooley decides he simply must have a partner. The best he can do is the renegade K-9 detective, Jerry Lee, a streetwise hot-dog who loves nothing more than breaking regulations. As is customary in buddy action movies, the partners get off to a rocky start -- Jerry Lee loves chili (draw your own conclusions), refuses to use doggy deodorant and, the clincher, puts a move on Dooley's girlfriend. During a wrestling match over a T-bone steak, Dooley warns, "Remember the movie 'Old Yeller'? I didn't cry when they shot him in the end." Then Jerry Lee saves Dooley's life, and they're thick as fleas. There's an understanding between them that goes beyond smells and words, a loopy interspecies chemistry. They come together like water and Gravy Train. The writers -- Scott Myers, a divinity student turned stand-up comedian, and Steven Siegel, a restaurateur in film school -- follow the formula in their first script. Belushi is fetching, though he plays a cliche'. But the movie would roll over and play dead without the talented German shepherd. Lassie was classy and Benji beguiling, but Jerry Lee is a four-legged Burt Reynolds, just made for fast cars and chase scenes. Trainer Karl Lewis Miller deserves more credit than director Rod Daniel, the brains behind that lycanthropic comedy "Teen Wolf." Just turn that camera on Jerry Lee, playing peekaboo from behind those big fuzzy paws, and you've got motion picture magic. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you might even feel like scratching. K-9, at area theaters, is rated PG-13.