(The other old dog was Dougan, who passed away at age 14 earlier this year)
Bandit was found abandoned in a horse ring in Texas tied to a wood rail. Witnesses said he was badly abused. A menacing four-inch scar on the base of his spine was evidence enough. A dear friend’s daughter was at an event at that very horse ring, took him into her care and drove him back to Oregon. She named him Bandit because of the mask covering the top part of his face.
Bandit is a cattle dog – a breed also known as an Australian Red Heeler (there are also Blue Heelers). They are a plucky breed, stout medium size dogs with a mixture of dingo, kelpie, highland collie, and Dalmatian, bred to withstand the rigors of herding cattle across grazing lands in Australia. They are also extremely intelligent, active, loyal, and protective of their owners and property.
Bandit was maybe a 1 ½ years old when we were introduced. He was about 40 pounds with a gorgeous rust-colored coat tipped with white fur. With his pointy ears and mask, he was as cute as a red panda. Beyond the cute factor, we had some kind of connection. It was like his little spirit said: “pick me!” If there is some kind of commandment that said, “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s dog,” I had definitely broken it. Regardless, I had to have that dog.
It took about 4 years. His owner, in college and then off to the world, was in a nomadic phase as most young adults are. I was always there, raising my hand volunteering to take him in when she couldn’t accommodate him well. After being put in less than optimal situations, she conceded. Bandit was dropped off at my home, a fenced acre in the country nine years ago. My gregarious golden retriever, Dougie, had been aching for a canine companion and was thrilled.
Bandit seemed to sense that he was in his forever home. He slipped into our family life seamlessly, enjoying all the attention along the way (I’m a dog spoiler). The two dogs took to each other like long lost friends. By far Bandit has enjoyed trips to the beach the most, long walks with me and Dougie, and patrolling the fence line protecting us from loud trucks and farm equipment that drove past the property. Bandit’s sparky personality gave us many a laugh especially when he was excited and acted like a wind-up toy.
Unfortunately, dogs don’t live long enough. Our walks grew shorter and shorter as the dogs aged. Sweet Dougie passed away at 14 last spring. Bandit, now also 14 could only manage maybe 15 minutes of sustained walking. We bought a ramp so he could make it up the two stairs to the porch. Then finally late this summer, his old injuries caught up to him. He went through several bouts of crippling back pain and could barely walk. We thought for sure we were going to lose him. With the aid of a dog sling with handles (that he wears around his midriff all the time now) we had help him do his business and walk around. Sometimes he messed in the house. Luckily with several trips to the vet, figuring out the appropriate medications, and a little acupuncture, Bandit is now ambulatory and can take care of his personal needs on his own again. Although he has physical limitations and is in the house the majority of the time, he is back to being his happy self.
During his convalescence, I was so mournful of not having a dog to walk with that I purchased a jogging stroller off Craig’s list for $50 that I converted to be dog-friendly. We were a team again! The stroller was so successful that we found a bike trailer for $40 that I also converted so he could join us on bike rides. Bandit loves his wheels and sets up a barking fit when he sees his rides come out of the shop.
Some might think we have gone to ridiculous lengths and should have just put Bandit down sooner. The deal is- this dog was given up on once and I was not going to give up on him again, especially knowing he was not ready to leave our company. Yes, it’s been expensive, a big commitment and at times upsetting, but he’s back with a smile on his face. I know he’s grateful. This us what you do for the ones you love
Four legs, fur, friend and family- Bandit is all that.