Mourning a Pet: Saying Goodbye to Bandit

A week ago we lost our beloved dog, Bandit. I’ve been thinking back on her life quite a lot since then and I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about her. The earliest part of her story (that we know) is that she was found stuck in the mud by rescuers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Shortly after she was brought up to Wisconsin and adopted by my then-boyfriend’s mother. While she was an integral part of that family and loved very much, the living situation eventually changed to something less suitable for her. In 2013 she came into our home and this is where she stayed for the rest of her life.

I’ve had pets all my life and I’ve cherished every last one of them, but I can honestly say there was something very special about Bandit. This is also the general consensus of everyone who knew her (which is actually quite a lot of people, she was very popular). She spread joy everywhere she went and all I can think, is what a wonderful legacy that is to leave behind.

Grieving for a pet is obviously a very individual experience. For me, looking back on her pictures from over the years and thinking about all her adventures has been a huge source of comfort. These aren’t all the most high quality pictures, but I’ve included them because they told a part of her story worth telling.

Every other weekend, Bandit would spend time with my ex-boyfriend Keith (sort of like a shared custody arrangement). During these weekends she would regularly attend church. She would socialize, brighten people’s day, and soak up the extra attention (and food scraps) available to her. She was also a muse that inspired numerous works of art.
She was there when we brought home our cat Jose for the first time. It took a little time, but it wasn’t too long before they understood each other. Bandit never really cared much for toys, so it was particularly nice to see Jose bring out her playful side a bit.
She was also there when we brought home Ember. Ember was a very nervous and insecure dog, but Bandit knew exactly how to handle her. She was never an instigator, but always a communicator. She’d correct Ember when she needed it and taught her more than a few lessons on how to be a good girl. 
She had other friends too, like my sister’s dog, Bodhi. They used to love going to the dog park together. 
Bandit loved the outdoors. Back in the day, she could hike quite the distance. Whether she was exploring the forests in Door County, playing in the water on the beach, or rolling around in the snow, she enjoyed every minute of it.
This is my personal favorite picture of her. It’s not her best picture, the lighting isn’t wonderful, it’s a little blurry, etc. But I love it because I remember this moment so clearly. It was early morning and we spontaneously decided to go for a hike on a nearby trail. There was a mist in the air and all the smells of the woods were amplified. There was no one else there, so we let her off her leash so she could explore more freely with us. When we got back in the car and were driving home, Keith captured this moment. She was just so happy and that memory of her joy rushes back to me every time I see this picture. And that’s why it’s my favorite.

Now Bandit was 15-16 years old. She lived a long, happy, wonderful life, surrounded by an endless stream of adorers. This does make her passing easier to accept, but that doesn’t make it easy. It’s hard to see the empty space where her food dish used to go or to bring in groceries and not have her there to inspect everything. There’s just this empty void where a ray of pure sunshine used to be. Despite the sadness that’s currently looming over us, there’s a sense of gratitude that cuts through. How could we not be grateful that we were the ones that got to love her and that we got to do it for so long? In time, the sadness will pass and we’ll be left with just the pleasant memories of what an amazingly good girl she was.

This picture summarizes why we referred to her as the Morale Officer. It was hard to feel down when this face was looking you.

She truly touched so many people’s lives. I couldn’t name them all, but I do believe there are a few that require special recognition. Bandit was very generous in dishing out love, but she definitely had a special connection with Keith that I would be remiss not mention. He was undoubtedly her ‘person’. Additionally, she was able to provide great comfort to his grandfather when he was suffering health issues and also possessed a special bond with Keith’s mother, Penny.

Whenever we went for a walk, her first priority upon getting home was to find my mother so she could tell her all about the things she saw and smelled while she was out. She had an unhealthy obsession with watching my grandmother eat, but in her defense, my grandma did have a tendency to drop ‘the goods’. I can’t describe the way her face lit up when my sister would come to visit. She just knew she was going to get loved on hard and she’d get so excited. She also adored my husband Ricky and always wanted to be near him when she could. And then there’s me. She knew I took care of her and when she passed away, she did so in my arms.

If you knew and loved Bandit, thank you for helping to make her life full. If you didn’t, I hope you were able to get a picture of what she was like. As painful as saying goodbye is, I would never give up the wonderful memories she gave me in exchange. There’s a theory that she stuck around past her time because she knew how happy she made people and, honestly, that’s exactly the sort of thing she would do.

We love you Bandit. Thank you for everything.

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