Bandit

Yesterday was an interesting day. I had to put my dog to sleep.

Bandit was nearly 13 years old. I still remember the day we got him. A
friend said he had a shepherd for me – knew I wanted a dog. I was thinking
GERMAN Shepherd, not AUSTRALIAN Shepherd. I was thinking brown and black,
short hair, etc. When this dog jumped out of the truck, I thought he was
the ugliest dog I had ever seen. Then after about 15 minutes Gail says,
“Why don’t we keep him for a week and see what happens.” SEE WHAT HAPPENS!
I’ve never known a puppy that didn’t get someone’s heart to fall in love
with him. I thought she was crazy. Well that week, turned into 12.5 years.

I remember when I got him to go swimming for the first time in Lebanon. I
kept throwing sticks in the water and he would bark and want to get them.
Finally, I just grabbed his hair and picked him up and threw him in. He
went completely under. But he got so he would just jump right in and chase
us or chase the ball or whatever else we threw.

I remember the time he would drop a ball in front of me as I mowed the lawn.
I thought – stupid dog, you need a 12-step program! So I’d just mow over
the ball, thinking I was helping the situation. Instead, the next round of
the mower, he’d drop a piece of the ball in front of me, hoping I’d throw
it. Who was stupid here – He didn’t quit and I just ruined a ball.

I taught him how to fetch, not to chew stuff up, to catch a Frisbee in
midair, to catch a treat off his nose, to sit, to lie down, to come, to stay
and all kinds of other things. I had never taught a dog anything before
that. Supposedly he was Seth’s dog, but he knew I was the BIG DOG and he
wanted to be with us and go with us wherever we went. I liked to chase the
bobbers on the fishing line – thinking we were throwing them for him. We
had to stop taking him fishing with us, because he’d scare all the fish
away…. And he was a real pain to have around while we played kickball or
soccer because he kept chewing the balls up! He just was such a people dog.

This sometimes caused a problem, because he would jump into the truck, van,
car before we were ready for him to be there and he was in the way. He was
always afraid of being left behind, so he would refuse to get out of the
way. I am not proud of how I always handled that situation, but over time,
we learned to deal with each other and I got better. I’m not sure he ever
did. I guess bandit was always in the way. He would sit in front of the
stair way while we brought in the groceries from the van, he would stand in
between the cars in the garage while we would be carrying something heavy
and he would expect us to go around him! He never did learn that one….

We took him camping. One time we had 5 of us and him in a two-man tent. He
kept Seth warm, I think. But that was when he was more active and when the
kids were smaller.

I remember he used to chase birds after we first got him. He’d run the
neighborhood looking up into the sky and not paying attention to where we
was going, parking with glee and thinking at some point he’d catch one of
them – never did.

Gail wanted him to be in the house when we first got him, even wanted him to
sleep on our bed with us. Then one day she found a flea on him and away he
went! He never quite got the hang of staying off our bed…. But never
really got the chance in our home again, but in the van, when we’d go to a
store, he’d climb up on a seat and refuse to get off the soft seat when we
returned.

Bandit loved to go on walks with us. HE used to go every day with Gail and
I. Dusty, our other dog (another Australian Shepherd) wouldn’t wait to be
asked, he was bounding ou direction. But lately, Bandit wouldn’t come
unless asked. I think it was arthritis. Last year, Gail and I were jogging
and sometimes Bandit would follow and sometimes he’d see us take of to go
jogging and he’d turn around and go back and lay down. Sometimes he’d get
half way up the hill with us (walking or jogging) and turn around and go
back on his own. He just didn’t have the heart or the strength to do that
anymore. The last two months he rarely did go for a walk with us anymore.
But this last week he went once and seemed to enjoy himself so much.

Probably my biggest irritation the last year was his aging body and not
being able to make it through the night without losing control of his
bowels….in my garage. Much of the time, he’d bark and let me know that he
needed out, and at 2am, 1am, 4am, I’d get up and let him out. That was
irritating, but when I would complain about it, saying I wasn’t going to
bother letting him out anymore, the kids would attack me and say that’s what
they were going to do to me when I got old – lock me in the bedroom not able
to get to the bathroom – and I’d relent the next night and get up to let him
out. In actuality that was better anyway – but your mind does strange
things in the middle of the night.

The last few days he’d go down by the horse to get a drink and stop to rest
half-way back. We didn’t realize it at the time, but yesterday we put
two-and-two together. Yesterday he went to the creek for a drink and
stopped half way back to the yard and lay down. He couldn’t hold his head
up. I couldn’t tell if he was dead or breathing or what. So, I put on my
shoes and went out to investigate. I didn’t want to startle him, so I began
to talk really loud as I approached him, because he was so hard of hearing.
I bent over and began to pet him and talk to him, and he opened his eye but
didn’t lift his head. I realized then that he was dying. We tried to give
him some water and he took some, but more often he would raise his head and
didn’t have the energy to drink and it would fall back over on the ground.

We also lost 4 of our 5 chickens the night before and our last duck that
night too. So, I was doing some investigating and went to see if there were
any signs of Bandit eating them and getting really blocked up. But it was
then that I began to choke up. I realized my friend was dying.

I called my friend/church member the vet and he said bring him in. We took
him in, I had to carry him into the van and carry him into the vets. He
weighed about 65lbs and was like dead weight. DeWayne told me after his
thorough examination that whatever it was, it was serious. It could be a
blockage, tumor, heart issues, etc. And he could spend $500 investigating
it and then find out we had to put him to sleep or do it now. Gail and I
are pragmatists. I knew when I saw him lying in the field behind our house
that we would have to put him down that day. We said our goodbyes, all the
kids and Gail came in to say goodbye – except Summer – she was sleeping in
the van. Seth and I stayed with him and I petted him until and even after
he was gone.

I nearly lost it there a few times, but I guess I learned my man-lessons
well and held back. It’s a shame, actually. But I did choke up a few
times.

I think this was good. It was good for my kids to see something other than
tragic death of a pet. It was good that he died now, rather than out in
some snow-drift in the next few months. It was good that we got to say good
bye and end his life in peace. Bandit was a good dog. He went through a
lot with me being his master, but we were friends and he loved my approval
and really tried everything he could to be man’s best friend. We’re going
to miss him, and I think Dusty will miss him too. But Dusty knew what was
going on yesterday. He left him alone, didn’t come too close, but never got
very far away either – he just stayed back and watched.

God gives us friends so that we will open our hearts to others – it is in
doing that sort of thing that we grow. I pity the man who is afraid to open
his heart and expose it to pain. For if we never expose ourselves, we never
really love.

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